Data

General Issues
Governance & Political Institutions
Environment
Economics
Specific Topics
Civil Law
Climate Change
Economic Inequality
Location
Strasbourg
Grand Est
France
Scope of Influence
Multinational
Parent of this Case
European Citizens Panel on the Future of Europe
Links
What is the Conference on the Future of Europe?
Conference on the Future of Europe: What Worked, What Now, What Next?
Overview & Timeline: Conference on the Future of Europe
Start Date
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Approach
Co-governance
Spectrum of Public Participation
Consult
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Limited to Only Some Groups or Individuals
Targeted Demographics
Appointed Public Servants
Women
Youth
General Types of Methods
Deliberative and dialogic process
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Propose and/or develop policies, ideas, and recommendations
Facilitate dialogue, discussion, and/or deliberation
Recruit or select participants
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Both
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
New Media
Independent Media
Public Report
Type of Organizer/Manager
International Organization
Staff
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Formal Evaluation
Yes
Evaluation Report Documents
Conference on the Future of Europe: What worked, what now, what next?

CASE

Conference on the Future of Europe

June 28, 2022 Joyce Chen
June 24, 2022 Joyce Chen
April 22, 2022 maria.tazi
April 18, 2022 Joyce Chen
General Issues
Governance & Political Institutions
Environment
Economics
Specific Topics
Civil Law
Climate Change
Economic Inequality
Location
Strasbourg
Grand Est
France
Scope of Influence
Multinational
Parent of this Case
European Citizens Panel on the Future of Europe
Links
What is the Conference on the Future of Europe?
Conference on the Future of Europe: What Worked, What Now, What Next?
Overview & Timeline: Conference on the Future of Europe
Start Date
Ongoing
Yes
Time Limited or Repeated?
A single, defined period of time
Purpose/Goal
Make, influence, or challenge decisions of government and public bodies
Develop the civic capacities of individuals, communities, and/or civil society organizations
Approach
Co-governance
Spectrum of Public Participation
Consult
Open to All or Limited to Some?
Limited to Only Some Groups or Individuals
Targeted Demographics
Appointed Public Servants
Women
Youth
General Types of Methods
Deliberative and dialogic process
General Types of Tools/Techniques
Propose and/or develop policies, ideas, and recommendations
Facilitate dialogue, discussion, and/or deliberation
Recruit or select participants
Legality
Yes
Facilitators
Yes
Face-to-Face, Online, or Both
Both
Types of Interaction Among Participants
Discussion, Dialogue, or Deliberation
Communication of Insights & Outcomes
New Media
Independent Media
Public Report
Type of Organizer/Manager
International Organization
Staff
Yes
Evidence of Impact
Yes
Formal Evaluation
Yes
Evaluation Report Documents
Conference on the Future of Europe: What worked, what now, what next?

The Conference on the Future of Europe (May 9, 2021–Spring 2022) encompassed a multilingual digital platform for idea sharing, decentralized events, European Citizens’ Panels, and Conference Plenary. Topics ranged from COVID-19 to climate change, democracy, and equality. According to Missions Publiques, however, the Plenary was the Conference’s central democratic innovation.

Problems and Purpose

The Conference on the Future of Europe was convened to “give citizens a say on what matters to them,” with their suggestions “reflect[ing] the areas where the European Union has the competence to act or where European Union action would be to the benefit of European citizens.” [1] Its agenda specifically aligns with the Strategic Agenda of the European Council and the 2019-2024 Political Guidelines of the European Commission.

The Conference’s topics of discussion included the COVID-19 pandemic, “building a healthy continent, 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.” [2] However, citizens were also able to add their own agenda items.


The European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission have committed to listen to Europeans and to follow up, within their sphere of competences, on the recommendations made. By Spring 2022, the Conference is expected to reach conclusions and provide guidance on the future of Europe.


Background History and Context

The Conference on the Future of Europe was launched in a joint effort between the European Parliament, European Council, and European Commission on May 9, 2021, to provide European citizens with channels to communicate their views on Europe’s future objectives and directions. When the Conference was launched, its organizers were optimistic that it would bolster EU democracy by uplifting the perspectives of citizens, political agents, and relevant stakeholders on the EU’s future. 


The Conference was one of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s election pledges to the European Parliament; she introduced the proposal in a candidacy speech on July 16, 2019, as part of a broader commitment to “a new push for European democracy.” [3] The Conference’s launch—initially planned for May 2020—was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic and disagreements between the European Parliament, Council, and Commission on leadership of the Conference. [4] Nonetheless, at the Conference’s inception, Ms. von der Leyen reaffirmed that the Conference was created “for all Europeans to debate a shared vision of what we want our Union to be”, and that its organizers would “listen to all voices […] and ensure that [they] properly follow up on whatever is agreed.” [5]


To that end, the Conference featured four overarching elements: a Multilingual Digital Platform for idea sharing; decentralized events hosted by various European individuals and organizations; European Citizens’ Panels; and a Conference Plenary. 


Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities

The Conference was one of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s election pledges to the European Parliament. It was eventually initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen as an “interinstitutional effort of the European Commission, Parliament and Council.” [6]


As such, the Conference on the Future of Europe was governed by its Joint Presidency, composed of the President of the European Parliament, the President of the Council and the President of the European Commission. The Conference’s Executive Board—observed by national parliaments and co-chaired by Guy Verhofstadt, Member of the European Parliament; Clément Beaune, State Secretary for EU Affairs for the French Council Presidency; and Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Democracy and Demography—supported the operations of the Joint Presidency. Specifically, the Executive Board organized the Conference’s events, prepared for its plenary meetings by compiling citizen input, and oversaw the Conference’s progress; it made decisions by consensus and reported directly to the Joint Presidency. In turn, the Conference’s Common Secretariat—composed of officials representing the European Parliament, Council, and Commission equally—assisted the Executive Board with its operations. 


Notably, while designing and facilitating the Citizens' Panels in particular, the Common Secretariat was assisted by a Deliberation Team comprised of Missions Publiques (France), Deliberativa (Spain), Ifok (Germany), and DBT (Denmark). 


Additionally, the Conference also offered parallel, decentralized events organized by civil society organizations and national actors. For example, the Civil Society Convention on the Future of Europe—convened by 75 civil society groups and national networks—deliberated on European digital transformation on its own, before relaying its findings to the Conference’s overarching organizers. 


No further information could be found regarding the Conference’s funding entities.


Participant Recruitment and Selection

Because the Conference’s decentralized events were organized by various entities, the Conference’s Rules of Procedure merely indicated that “citizens’ participation in these events should aim at mirroring Europe’s diversity.” [7]


On the other hand, attendees for the European Citizens’ Panels were randomly selected by the market research company Kantar Public to reflect diversity in the EU in terms of geographic region, gender, age, economic background, and educational attainment. ⅓ of each Panel was also under 25. 


Finally, the Conference Plenary’s attendees were gender-balanced. These attendees included 108 individuals from the European Parliament, 108 from all national EU Parliaments, 54 from the Council, and 3 from the Commission. It also includes 80 delegates from the European Citizens’ Panels (at least ⅓ of whom are below 25), the President of the European Youth Forum, and 27 representatives of national events. Additionally, representatives from the Committee of the Regions, the Economic and Social Committee, regional authorities, local authorities, social partners, civil society associations, and other stakeholder groups were invited as appropriate. 


Methods and Tools Used

From September 2021 to late February 2022, each of the Conference’s 4 European Citizens’ Panels met 3 times (once online). The first session covered participants’ perspectives on the EU and its future trajectory, as well as pinpointed related priorities for the European Union. The second encouraged participants to describe approaches to achieve those priorities. The third provided participants an opportunity to translate those approaches into recommendations for the European Union. 


The Conference Plenary, after deliberating about national and European Citizens’ Panels recommendations, debated the recommendations from the national and European Citizens’ Panels and the input gathered from the Multilingual Digital Platform. Ultimately, the Plenary put forward its proposals to the Executive Board. which would draw up a report in full collaboration and full transparency with the Plenary. [8]


What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation

As mentioned above, the Conference had a 4-part structure: a Multilingual Digital Platform for idea sharing; decentralized events hosted by various European individuals and organizations; European Citizens’ Panels; and a Conference Plenary. 

  1. The Multilingual Digital Platform served as a centralized point of information for the Conference’s different arms, a collection of its documents and records, and a means of encouraging debate and discussion on Conference events. 
  2. Decentralized conference events were organized at different levels—nationally, transnationally, regionally, and locally—and involved different stakeholders and groups. 
  3. The Conference’s 4 European Citizens’ Panels met—both in person and online—to form recommendations on specific themes: 1) Stronger economy, social justice, jobs, education, culture, sport, digital transformation; 2) EU democracy, values, rights, rule of law, security; 3) Climate change, environment, health; and 4) EU in the world, migration.
  4. The Conference Plenary’s purpose was to consider recommendations forwarded by national and European Citizens’ Panels, as well as by the Multilingual Digital Platform, before relaying its subsequent recommendations to the Executive Board. The Conference Plenary convened at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. 


Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The Conference’s conclusions will be conveyed to the Joint Presidency, whose affiliated institutions will “examine swiftly how to follow up effectively to this report, each within their own sphere of competences and in accordance with the Treaties.” [9] For transparency purposes, citizens’ inputs and Conference-related materials will also be made available via the conference’s open Multilingual Digital Platform. 


Analysis and Lessons Learned

In the Conference on the Future of Europe Observatory’s High Level Advisory Group Report, it was noted that the Conference’s “random selection of citizens,” “logistics and organization,” and “results-driven process”, as well as “participants’ motivation,” were conducive to its success. However, its “many, broad themes” meant that some topics did not receive enough focus or participants were not adequately briefed to discuss them. Additionally, “timing issues” meant that there was insufficient time to process and utilize large amounts of new information. Furthermore, because transnational deliberations in the European Citizens’ Panels did not fully align with debates occurring in each member state, some participants remained “unaware of the national dimension of the [Conference]”; the inverse was true as well. [10] Finally, the Conference’s occasionally nebulous objective made it difficult for citizens to understand the significance of their work.


These appraisals informed 5 recommendations for the Conference’s next phase: 1) Raise the stakes of the Conference; 2) Allow the Panels to deliberate again and engage with the Conference Plenary; 3) Ensure clarity on the Conference Plenary and Working Group process; 4) Translate citizens’ recommendations into actionable proposals; and 5) Specify the final path to and form of the Conference’s outcome.


Nonetheless, recommendations produced by the Conference on the Future of Europe have reopened discussion on electoral reform and EU treaty reform. On May 9, 2022, Ursula von der Leyen noted that “the European Citizens’ Panels have proven that this form of democracy works. It must now be integrated into the way we make policy. I will propose to give the Citizens’ Panels the time and resources to make recommendations before we present some key proposals.” [11]


See Also

References

[1] “Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe.” Accessed April 18, 2022. https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/en_-_joint_declaration_on_the_conference_on_the_future_of_europe.pdf.

[2] “Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe.” Accessed April 18, 2022. https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/en_-_joint_declaration_on_the_conference_on_the_future_of_europe.pdf.

[3] European Commission. "Opening Statement in the European Parliament Plenary Session by Ursula von der Leyen, Candidate for President of the European Commission." Accessed April 18, 2022. https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/SPEECH_19_4230.

[4] Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP). "The Conference on the Future of Europe: Obstacles and Opportunities to a European Reform Initiative That Goes beyond Crisis Management." Accessed June 24, 2022. https://www.swp-berlin.org/10.18449/2021C19/.

[5] “High_Level_Advisory_Group_Report.Pdf.” Accessed April 18, 2022. https://conference-observatory.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/High_Level_Advisory_Group_Report.pdf.

[6] “High_Level_Advisory_Group_Report.Pdf.” Accessed April 18, 2022. https://conference-observatory.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/High_Level_Advisory_Group_Report.pdf.

[7] “High_Level_Advisory_Group_Report.Pdf.” Accessed April 18, 2022. https://conference-observatory.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/High_Level_Advisory_Group_Report.pdf.

[8] “Plenary Working Groups - Conference on the Future of Europe.” Accessed April 18, 2022. https://futureu.europa.eu/pages/working-groups.

[9] “What Is the Conference on the Future of Europe? - Conference on the Future of Europe.” Accessed April 18, 2022. https://futureu.europa.eu/pages/about?format=html&locale=en.

[10] “High_Level_Advisory_Group_Report.Pdf.” Accessed April 18, 2022. https://conference-observatory.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/High_Level_Advisory_Group_Report.pdf.

[11] "Conference on the Future of Europe: could it be that citizens moved the European Union forward?" Accessed June 24, 2022. https://missionspubliques.org/conference-on-the-future-of-europe-could-it-be-that-citizens-move-the-european-union-forward/?lang=en.


External Links

Notes