Can Europe Make It?

What conference on the “future of Europe”?

The EU is not the final stage of European integration: it is only one stage and what’s more has strayed away from the original ideas of the Founding Fathers.

Olivier Védrine
Olivier Védrine
11 May 2020
Europe future fringe launch.
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On 9 May 2020 we celebrated the 70 years of the Schuman Declaration. A conference on the “future of Europe” should have been launched on this day but was delayed till September by the European Commission because of the Covid-19 sanitary crisis. It should last 2 years, and it is one of the main priorities of the Von der Leyen Commission.

During the press conference of 22 January, Dubravka Suica, vice-president of the Commission for democracy and demography, promised to focus on the citizen’s base and to make the conference accessible to citizens all over the EU. “This is different from normal. We are committed to an open dialogue and to translate the conference’s conclusions into concrete judicial acts” – she announced.

In December, the Financial Times labelled the “Future of Europe” conference as “the last inspiration of the French president Emmanuel Macron to relaunch European democracy”.

The Commission’s aim is to guarantee that the largest amount possible of citizens will participate at the conference, as well as eventually from EU candidate states.

Meanwhile, some NGOs announced their plans for a festival outside the Future of Europe conference. Leaders of civil society called for a pan-European festival. More than 20 leaders of civil society networks of the EU launched a call to create independent events that are spontaneously organized to mobilize the citizens of the EU!

The Brussels Times and the Parliament’s newspaper presented this initiative. A new website www.europefuturefringe.com is already online.

Civil society organizations should play their role in order to create a series of events in parallel with the Europe’s future conference.

Workshops, conferences, artistic and theatrical manifestations, lectures, cultural and literature festivals, music festivals are all activities available in this parallel conference.

This initiative should imperatively be extended beyond the EU’s borders in order to allow citizens, for example from the UK and from Ukraine, to participate in the conversation on Europe’s future.

This parallel conference launched by civil society is the proof of European citizens’ wariness of centralized institutions of the EU monopolizing the process. The majority of European citizens want more Europe and less Brussels, more European Parliament and less European Commission. As of today, everything that comes from the Commission appears to the citizen to be something unaccountable, disconnected, too centralized or elitist.

What the citizen wants is a governance that is close, decentralized and local, and a Europe that protects!

Post-crisis – we must plan

The health crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic announces a major economic and financial crisis that will bring down the neo-liberal system. We must now think about the post-crisis period. The growing inequalities because the economy has taken over politics force us to place human dignity at the centre of European values.

The Banker is not there to make a social policy; he is no longer even there to help and support entrepreneurs. Policy must regain control over the economy by taking inspiration from the model of a regulatory, strategic, and protection role at the service of all citizens, decentralized in a more social Europe to defend the weakest. Few European politicians know how to talk to us about our cities, about our villages, our customs and traditions; it is time to break free from the speeches of the accountants and statisticians!

Beware, the EU is not the final stage of European integration, it is only one stage and what’s more has strayed away from the original ideas of the Founding Fathers! Citizens are not simply statistics. Technocracy and the wanderings of predatory neo-liberalism have mutilated social democracy. A new accounting must be established for our European nations that does not prioritize financial capital only, but also the environment, cultural heritage and especially human wealth through t better education, for example.

It is up to citizens to make Europe, it is civil society that will make the success of this conference on the Future of Europe, both in the official conference and especially with all the events organized in parallel. A new governance for Europe is needed to move closer to achieving political balance and thus ensure a more effective and humane government. This means accepting a comprehensive and shared approach to power, which can embody more dialogue, consensus, respect and consideration of different and complementary interests: social, environmental, cultural, economic, etc.

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