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Civil society leaders call for pan-European fringe festival

Edinburgh street artists perform in Edinburgh on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Credit: Wikimedia

Civil society leaders of twenty EU networks have renewed calls for free-standing and spontaneously organised events modelled on the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival to mobilise EU citizens ahead of the planned Future of Europe Conference.

The Conference on the Future of Europe is one of the priorities of the new European Commission. To recall, in her political guidelines last Summer, the new Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced that “I want citizens to have their say at a Conference on the Future of Europe, to start in 2020 and run for two years.”

“The Conference should bring together citizens, including a significant role for young people, civil society and European institutions as equal partners. The Conference should be well prepared with a clear scope and clear objectives, agreed between the Parliament, the Council and the Commission,” she wrote.

She was prepared to follow up the conference by legislative action and was also open to Treaty change.

Formal arrangements are currently under discussion by the EU institutions. At the summit on 12 December, the European Council considered the idea of a conference on the Future of Europe, to involve the Council, the European Parliament and the Commission in their respective roles.

In a recent meeting in Milan, civil society representatives, including Gianluca Brunetti, General Secretary of the European Economic and Social Committee, and Antonella Valmorbida, Secretary General of The European Association for Local Democracy, discussed how a “European Fringe Festival” would allow citizens to occupy the “spaces in between” the Future of Europe Conference.

The Milan meeting was organised by the Italian Platform of the European Movement and chaired by its President Pier Virgilio Dastoli.

“The proposal for a European Fringe Festival to run in parallel with the Conference is a powerful one,” said Dastoli. “As the European Parliament starts to consider how best to approach the organisation of the Future of Europe Conference, our message is clear: by working on the fringes of politics, civil society will energise proceedings and transform the prospects for a successful outcome”.

Civil rights campaigner Roger Casale (Secretary General, New Europeans), who proposed the idea of a “European Fringe Festival” in November at the Annual Volonteurope meeting in Brussels, said: “Like Edinburgh’s Fringe festival which has become the dominant and influential voice of the arts world, we should occupy the fringe of EU politics ahead of the Future of Europe Conference.”

“We have a unique opportunity to understand and crowd-source ideas about what needs to be done within Europe and how we can make change the course of the EU building a stronger, united and more resilient Europe.”

Dominik Kirchdorfer, President of European Future Forum said: ”A Future of Europe Fringe is a brilliant way for us to kick-start the conversation about the Future of Europe and to keep citizens engaged with civil society long-term. In this way, we hope to do our part to foster democracy in Europe.”

The participants also suggested that the conference on the future of Europe should be preceded by a Common Declaration of Europeans written by European Nobel Laureates and Youth Movements., taking up an idea of Raymond Van Ermen (European Partners for the Environment) and Tillmann Löser (Peaceful Revolution Foundation).

The declaration should celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration and offer a vision of an EU of the 21st century that implements UN´s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. On May 9th, 2020, the Presidents of all the EU Institutions should open the Conference to address the transformation of the EU, drawing inspiration from the Common Declaration.

The Brussels Times

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