Conference of the Future of Europe starts with digital platform for citizens’ debate
Share article:
Share article:

Conference of the Future of Europe starts with digital platform for citizens’ debate

The co-chairs of the Conference on the Future of Europe at the press conference: From the left, Secretary of state Ana Paula Zacarias (Portugal, Council), Vice-President Dubravka Sucia (European Commission) and MEP Guy Verhofstadt (European Parliament), 19 April, credit: EU

Representatives of the three main European institutions, the Parliament, the Council and the Commission, launched on Monday the digital platform for the conference, due to get formally started on Europe day, 9 May, marking the anniversary of the Schuman declaration.

By coincidence, the launch occurred 70 years after the historical signature on 18 April 1951 of the Treaty of Paris, establishing the European Coal and Steel Community, which would pave the way for the European Communities and later the European Union.

The launch followed the joint declaration on the Conference of the Future of Europe by the three institutions. In the declaration, the European institutions committed themselves to engage with citizens for democracy and building a more resilient Europe. The Conference is described as a citizen focused and bottom-up exercise for Europeans to have their way on what they expect from the EU.

The platform is multilingual and available in 24 languages, allowing citizens from across the EU to keep themselves updated about the conference, to share and exchange their ideas and views, and to organised events. On the platform, anyone can browse the ideas submitted and event outcomes.

In order to be able to contribute, participants need to create an EU login account and register or log in via social media.

MEP Guy Verhofstadt, the Parliament’s co-chair of the conference, described the interactive platform as a totally new instrument in EU’s history. It will allow citizens to participate both passively and actively in the conference. The platform will serve as the engine of the conference and its output will form the input to next phase of the conference, the citizens panels and plenary sessions.

Participants will be bound by a charter not to abuse the platform by disseminating fake news and hate speech. The publication of contents will be subject to moderation posteriori by a team of moderators and any content that does not comply with the charter will be flagged and not allowed. The Commission promises that the moderation will be both proactive and reactive.

“The risk of foreign interference, fake news, or even interest groups, political parties, churches or others impacting disproportionately on the platform ​can be countered technically,” commented Bent Noerby Bonde, Secretary General of Europe’s People’s Forum, which represents technical partners and civil society organisations all over Europe.

The digital platform lists 10 topics, including “Other issues”. What about ideas about treaty changes?

Dubravka Sucia, the European Commissioner leading the work on deliberative democracy and the Conference on the Future of Europe, assured that no topic is exempted. Verhofstadt admitted that treaty change is not mentioned as a separate topic in the joint declaration, which implies that “everything is possible, nothing is impossible” to discuss.

The costs of the conference are shared by all three institutions but no budget figure was given at the press conference and it was not clear how the funding will function. National parliaments are supposed to pay for national events and events organised by local and regional organisations. Events organised by civil society organisations might get some funding from the common budget of the conference.

Europe’s People´s Forum, one of the first expert organisation that advised the EU institutions to use an online digital platform to engage as many citizens as possible during the conference, is now calling for the creation of a permanent mechanism of citizens consultation and participation.

The purpose would be to increase citizens’ sense of ownership over the EU’s strategic direction and to give citizens’ a clear sense that the European project reflects their needs and aspirations.

The Forum has proposed an independent foundation which could be set up by the European Parliament to implement and gradually refine a range of instruments of democratic participation.

The Conference on the Future of Europe will end by Spring 2022. Is the digital platform a temporary instrument for the conference or will it become a permanent feature of participative democracy? Vice-President Sucia replied that an extension is possible but no decision on this has been taken yet.

M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times

Latest news

Café patron stabs manager after being asked to see proof of vaccination
A customer stabbed a café manager in Brussels on Saturday after being asked to show his Covid Safe Ticket (CST), according to Bruzz. Asking to see ...
Belgium to simplify administrative processes with ‘digital wallet’
The federal government wants to create an online "wallet" for all people living in Belgium which would bundle all official documents, from visas to ...
‘Start of infection wave’: Flanders to turn red on European map again
Flanders will turn red on the map of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) again this week, as the daily average of new ...
Staff strike at application centre for asylum seekers
The staff of an application centre for asylum seekers in Brussels began a 24-strike on Monday morning, meaning that no one can apply for asylum there ...
Bpost plans to merge parcel and letter services in Belgium
The new CEO of Bpost – Belgium's primary mail delivery company and one of the country's largest civilian employers – has decided to merge the ...
Belgian playground bullying drama wins at London Film Festival
Playground (original title 'Un Monde'), the first feature film by Belgian director Laura Wandel, was awarded the top prize in the First Feature ...
Brussels launches initiatives to improve cyclist and pedestrian safety
Two new initiatives are being developed in Brussels to make the city safer and more pedestrian and cyclist-friendly, especially around key areas on ...
Vaccination coverage in Wallonia breaks 70 percent
The Wallonia Region in Belgium has reached the milestone of having 70 percent of its population receive at least one shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, ...
Belgian youth asked to skip school for Friday’s climate strike
Young people in Belgium have been called on by the climate movement Youth for Climate to once again skip school and take to the streets during the ...
Belgium to invest in sustainable heating in 2022
The Federal Government will set aside about €1 million in its 2022 budget for a social tariff for sustainable heating, Federal Energy Minister Tinne ...
Over 50,000 march against fascism in Rome
Tens of thousands of people demonstrated against fascism in Rome on Saturday, one week after violent protests against the Covid certificate. Over ...
Will Brussels bounce back?
The lockdowns have tested the city and forced it to confront key questions about its future. Derek Blyth looks back at an extraordinary moment in our ...