Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstad will be the “de facto” chair of the Conference on the Future of Europe, alongside two other leaders, sources reported on Thursday following an agreement between the three biggest political groups in the European Parliament.
The European People’s Party (EPP), the Socialists and Social Democrats of the S&D and the Liberals and Macronists of Renew Europe (RE) reached agreement on a triumvirate to head the major exercise in participatory democracy advocated by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Renew Europe will be represented by Verhofstad (Open Vld) in the trio. His role would be to “call, coordinate and direct” the plenary session, steering group and executive council of the Conference, thus functioning, “de facto,” as its chairman, one source commented.
Another source said the EPP, which has delegated group leader Manfred Weber, would be in charge of the substantive work of the Conference, while the S&D would take care of managing relations with citizens. The European Parliament would like to see the citizens of the various member countries play a major role in the process.
Thursday’s tripartite agreement should put an end to months of tension between the three major political families in the Parliament over the management of the Conference. It still needed to be formally confirmed through the usual written procedures, sources reported.
In Summer, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen took up the idea of a conference on the democratic reinforcement of the EU after the polemics over the designation by member States of candidates for the EU’s highest executive posts, at the expense of the “Spitzenkandidaten” (main candidates) process supported by a majority of MEPs.
In addition to institutional issues, the Conference on the Future of Europe will discuss the major challenges facing Europe such as climate change, digitization and security. It should begin its work on 9 May, Europe Day, and conclude it in two years’ time.