On 9 June - following the report on the final outcome of the Conference on the Future of Europe and the resolution adopted on the follow-up to the same - the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the call for a Convention for the revision of the Treaties. On 14 September, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen - delivering her third State of the Union address - gave her support to the European Parliament. Indeed, she believes that “the moment has arrived for a European Convention”. On the contrary, Member States are divided: many national governments would still prefer to develop the European Union within the framework of the existing treaties. As such, the follow-up to the CoFoE is still to come.
The establishment of a Conference for Europe was first proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron in autumn 2019 as a roadmap for change built on input from citizen panels, academics, civil society and religious representatives. The then candidate for President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen endorsed the proposal and included it in her Agenda for Europe as a new push for European democracy.
The start of the conference, which had been planned for 9 May 2020, had to be postponed for a year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Finally, on 10 March 2021, the Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) was signed by late European Parliament President David Sassoli, Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa, on behalf of the Council of the EU, and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The work on the Conference officially started with the constitutive meeting of the Executive Board - composed of representatives from the three main institutions – held on 24 March. With the setting up of a Multilingual Digital Platform allowing European citizens to contribute in all the EU languages, four European Citizens’ Panels, six National Citizens’ Panels, several events organized at both national and local level as well as seven Conference Plenaries, the Conference was a citizen-led series of debates and, therefore, it is considered an unprecedented experience of transnational deliberative democracy. Indeed, the initiative of the Conference and its structure gave European citizens the possibility to share and discuss their ideas about how to develop the EU. Despite that, unfortunately, it should be noted that the lack of political investment by political representatives and governments as well as of media coverage had an impact on participation.
The Conference ended on 9 May – Europe Day – in Strasbourg with the presentation of its final report to the Presidents of the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission. The report contains 49 proposals and more than 300 concrete measures that citizens have formulated about the future of the European Union. According to the Joint Declaration, the three institutions undertake to “examine swiftly how to follow up effectively to this report, each within their own sphere of competences and in accordance with the Treaties”.
Exactly one month after the conclusion of the CoFoE, the European Parliament – noting that several of the Conference proposals require amendments to the Treaties – adopted a resolution calling on heads of state or government to set up a Convention to revise the Treaties. Specifically, the 355 MEPs who voted in favour of the resolution ask – inter alia – for the strengthening of the EU competences and powers with regards to health and cross-border health threats, energy defence, and social and economic policies as well as for the strengthening of the EP’s role. Furthermore, they call for specific amendments to art. 29 and 48 TEU to move decisions from unanimity to qualified majority voting.
After the adoption, the EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola transmitted the matter to the Council. In fact, according to the procedure laid down in article 48 TUE, if Treaty amendments are proposed by the Parliament, the Commission or a member state, the Council submits them to the European Council and notifies the national parliaments. Then the European Council shall decide by simple majority on opening a Treaty reform procedure.
So, the next step should have been made by the Council. However – despite several recommendations from the EU Parliament President Metsola to the Council Presidency - the Council has not submitted the proposal to the European Council nor notified national Parliaments.
On 10 June, the Council started discussions based on a comprehensive preliminary technical assessment of the proposals and measures prepared by the General Secretariat of the Council. While, during its meeting on 23 and 24 June 2022, the European Council took note of the proposals set out in the Report on the outcome of the Conference and that work has already been undertaken in this regard. The Council underlined that the follow-up to the Conference is regularly discussed by its preparatory bodies and by the EU affairs ministers in the General Affairs Council. However, looking at the main results of the General Affairs Council on 18 October, many ministers have a different view from that of MEPs. In fact, according to them, most of the Conference proposals can be implemented under the current Treaty framework.
With regard to the European Commission, it adopted a Communication including an assessment of what is needed to follow up to the Conference’s proposals and an overview of the next steps. Lastly, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen supports the proposal of the European Parliament.
Leaving aside the political aspects, the proposals made by EU citizens demand – inter alia - more transparency and responsibility by the EU institutions, more convergence, more EU’s legislative competences, a permanent dialogue between the institutions and the EU citizens.
Furthermore, much has changed since the idea of the Conference was announced. The Covid-19 pandemic, the consequences of Brexit, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the energy crisis, the ongoing discussion about enlargement are just some of the challenges that the European Union is now facing.
So in the light of this, one thing seems to be clear: the time has come to renew the European integration.