Von der Leyen’s push for European Democracy: A Conference on the Future of Europe

2019-11-14 News

In July 2019, Ursula von der Leyen, the President-elect of the European Commission, presented her political guidelines for 2019-2024 in which she outlines her six priorities: 1. A European Green Deal, 2. An economy that works for the people, 3. A Europe fit for the digital Age, 4. Protecting our European way of life, 5. A stronger Europe in the world and 6. A new push for European Democracy.

In this 6th chapter “A new push for European Democracy”, von der Leyen proposes a Conference on the Future of Europe aimed at “strengthening our democracy” in Europe. This Conference is supposed to start in 2020 bringing together citizens, civil society and the EU institutions as equal partners. Participants shall debate the future of European democracy on both polity and policy level: „I want citizens to have their say at a Conference on the Future of Europe, to start in 2020 and run for two years.“ By doing so, citizens should not only “play a leading and active part in setting our priorities,” but shall also be given “a stronger role in decision-making”. 

Von der Leyen pointed out that she is ready to follow up on what is agreed in such a Conference, including by “legislative action, if appropriate”. Moreover, she highlighted that she is open to Treaty change. At the same time, she intends to include other EU institutions and considers that a Member of the European Parliament could be the Chair of such a Conference.

At this stage, important aspects of the Conference’s mandate – determining the success or failure of such a Conference process – are not defined yet. This refers to a) the content and scope, (policies and priorities), b) the composition of the Conference (involvement and participation of stakeholders such as national parliamentarians, organized and non-organized civil society ) and c) the governance (mode of decision-making and methodology). Von der Leyen, however, proposes already two content-related points referring to the “Spitzenkandidaten-process” and the possibility for transnational lists – debates which must be finalized by mid-2020.

The Commissioner for “Democracy and Demography”, Dubravka Šuica (EPP), will be responsible for the implementation of the Conference and is thereby supported by Commissioners Šefčovič (S&D) and Commissioner Jourová (RE). The European Parliament has established a working group on the Conference on the Future of Europe to determine its own position on the question of the abovementioned mandate by December 2019. This EP working group is chaired by EP-President Sassoli and consists of members from all major political groups: Paulo Rangel (EPP), Gabriele Bischoff (S&D), Guy Verhofstadt (Renew Europe), Daniel Freund (Greens/EFA), Gunnar Beck (ID) , Zdzisław Krasnodębski (ECR), Helmut Scholz (GUE/NGL) and Antonio Tajani as temporary AFCO Representative.

The ECI Campaign currently invites citizens and civil society partners to send us their proposals on how to define the mandate of the Conference on the Future of Europe in the best possible way. Please send your proposals to berg[at]citizens-initiative.eu . In a next step, we will present our ideas and proposals, which we will share broadly. Already today it is important to clarify that the currently proposed Conference on the Future of Europe will not be an ordinary Convention to change the Treaty as is foreseen in Article 48 TEU. However, this Conference may very well prepare such a Treaty change Convention, similar to the Convention on the Future of Europe in 2002/03, provided that the underlying mandate can facilitate and adjust the necessary working processes for this option.

Sources:

Von der Leyen, Ursula (2019): A Union that strives for more – My agenda for Europe, by candidate for President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen – POLITICAL GUIDELINESFOR THE NEXT EUROPEAN COMMISSION 2019-2024