10 March 2021

European institutions sign the Declaration – a milestone for the Conference on the Future of Europe

Today, European Parliament President, David Sassoli, Prime Minister of Portugal António Costa, on behalf of the Presidency of the Council, and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen have signed the Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe, which creates a milestone in the process of the launch of the Conference, delayed for almost a year now.

The Joint Declaration sets out the scope, structure, objectives and principles of the Conference and reiterates that it is a citizens-focused, bottom-up exercise for Europeans to have their say on what they expect from the European Union. It promises to give citizens a greater role in shaping the Union’s future policies and ambitions, improving its resilience. It will do so through a multitude of Conference-events and debates organised across the Union, as well as through an interactive multilingual digital platform.

It sheds more light on the organisation of the Conference which should be placed under the authority of the three European institutions, acting as its Joint Presidency. An Executive Board will be set up. It will consist of an equal representation from the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission, each having three representatives and up to four observers. The presidential Troika of COSAC will participate as an observer. The Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee may also be invited as observers, as well as representatives of other EU bodies and social partners where appropriate.

The Declaration mentions also the involvement of civil society and stakeholders, however, it does not elaborate on the details on how to involve organised civil society in the Conference.

The Joint Declaration also provides some clarity on the topics to be discussed in the Conference, including the European Commission´s priorities such as the fight against climate change and environmental challenges, an economy that works for people, social fairness, equality and intergenerational solidarity, Europe’s digital transformation, European rights and values including the Rule of Law, migration challenges, security, the EU’s role in the world, the Union’s democratic foundations, and how to strengthen democratic processes governing the European Union. Discussions can also cover cross-cutting issues related to the EU’s ability to deliver on policy priorities, such as better regulation, application of subsidiarity and proportionality, implementation and enforcement of the acquis and transparency.

Philanthropy Advocacy (PA) regrets that the Declaration lacks information on the involvement of organised civil society in the Conference on the Future of Europe. However, we would like to reiterate the call for engaging philanthropy and wider civil society in the Conference on the future of Europe and truly implement the civil dialogue. Meanwhile, we have joined the civil society led Civil Society Convention which fills a gap in the Conference on the Future of Europe and seeks to collect civil society input and bridge to the conference. After all its civil society organisations’ role to hold EU institutions and national governments accountable for a truly participative and democratic conference, but also for its follow up through policy, legislative and if needed Treaty change.