5 things to know about how Europeans are shaping the future of the EU
More than a year ago, the Conference on the Future of Europe began its journey — it is the biggest European participatory democracy exercise ever.
The Conference was more than just a one-time event. The year-long citizen-led debate involved more than 721,000 Europeans participating in events and about 800 panellists from the European Citizens Panels, the youngest aged 16 and the oldest an 85-year-old woman, born in 1936.
Together, they contributed to a joint vision of a Europe that would respond better to new challenges and people’s needs. The result: 49 proposals and more than 300 measures, which are now being taken forward by the EU institutions.
1. What will be the impact of people’s ideas?
The debate and the discussions culminated in a final report containing proposals stemming from ideas from people and civil society at large. At the closing ceremony on 9 May this year, the report was presented to the Presidents of the EU institutions, who committed to following up on these proposals.
On 17 June, the Commission published a Communication with the first analysis of the proposals, offering an assessment of what must be done to bring them to life. It also highlights how we can learn from the Conference to further enrich EU policymaking with greater involvement of citizens.
This September, President von der Leyen will announce the first set of new proposals in her State of the Union speech in the European Parliament. These proposals will also be part of the 2023 Commission work programme.
But how did this citizen-led journey start?
2. Everyone was invited to share their ideas for the future of Europe
President von der Leyen called for the Conference on the Future of Europe as part of her political priority — a new push for European democracy.
European Citizens’ Panels and a Multilingual Digital Platform were at the heart of the Conference and its deliberations. People from across the EU shared their ideas and joined the debate in 24 official EU languages.
More than 800 people were selected randomly as panellists for four European Citizens’ Panels, reflecting diversity in origin, gender, age, social background and education.
Panellists met regularly, both online and in-person, across different cities to debate their ideas and the ideas submitted by citizens online, making this democratic exercise even more inclusive.
European, national, regional and local authorities, social partners and civil society could organise events and involve as many citizens as possible. Almost 7,000 events took place during the whole year.
3. Youth participation and their proposals
Young Europeans had an important place in this unique project. They were encouraged to take part and share their ideas on what kind of Europe they want to live in. In fact, one-third of the participants at the conference were young people under the age of 25, which is quite fitting considering 2022 is the European Year of Youth.
Youth consultations and the European Youth Event held in 2021 in Strasbourg brought thousands of young people from all over the EU to share their ideas for Europe’s future, resulting in the Youth Ideas Report, which details the 20 most endorsed ideas from the youth.
“For me, (being) the youngest panellist at the Conference, the whole experience of going to Strasbourg to make things better was just something amazing. As a member of Panel 3 focused on health, I think young people care about health topics, mainly dental care, healthy food and mental health.”
Nicolas Morávek, a panellist and a panel ambassador from the Czech Republic
4. What areas do Europeans prioritise for future EU actions?
Europeans shared and debated their ideas based on nine themes, including climate change, environment and health, a stronger economy, the EU’s global role, European democracy, the rule of law and security. And according to the final number of submitted ideas, comments and events, European democracy was the topic with the highest engagement, followed by Climate change and the environment.
“Finding out that people from all over Europe had much the same needs and requests towards European Institutions was both exciting and surprising. I thought it would have taken much longer to agree on the issues being discussed.”
Valentina Balzani, a panellist from Italy and a panel “ambassador” to the Conference Plenary
5. People debated their ideas directly with policymakers
Seven plenary sessions were held in Strasbourg with the delegates of European and national citizens’ panels, representatives of EU institutions, national and local governments, parliaments, social partners and civil society. This made it possible for European citizens to debate their ideas directly with policymakers.
At the final session in April, the Conference Plenary adopted 49 proposals with 326 measures that will later shape the final Conference report and, ultimately, EU policies and actions.
To keep the citizens who have participated in the Conference informed, and to keep up the momentum, a feedback event will be organised in the autumn of 2022. This event would be the moment for communicating and explaining how the three EU institutions are following up and taking stock of progress at that stage of the process.
Learn more about the Conference in the video below and here.