[LIVE] Conference on the Future of Europe officially in business with today’s first plenary session

The Conference on the Future of Europe begins in earnest today with its first plenary session

The Conference on the Future of Europe begins in earnest today with its first plenary session at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Through the initiative, the EU is seeking to give its citizens more of a say in the formulation of the bloc’s policies and strategies than they usually have at the ballot box.

As Guy Verhofstadt, the Conference’s co-President on behalf of the European Parliament, remarked earlier this week: “What we are going to do is an exercise in which both sides combine to decide on the future reforms we desperately need in the EU. It is asking to the citizens what do they want and the institutions responding to this recommendations and wishes.

“It will be up to the citizens to give their input into the Conference, and to the representatives and politicians to define the output.”

A number of Maltese MEPs, MPs and citizens are taking part in today’s event, the first in what the European Union is hoping will be a series of landmark events marking a shift in ethos by attempting to bring the central workings of government and policy formulation closer to its citizens, and to hear and act upon their input.

Maltese MEPs Josianne Cutajar and Roberta Metsola will be on hand Strasbourg today. The delegation from the Maltese Parliament, meanwhile, is composed of Claudette Buttigieg, Rosianne Cutajar, Joseph Ellis and Jean Claude Micallef.

Today’s inaugural plenary session will set out the ‘Purpose and expectations of the Conference’ while future plenaries, of which there will be at least five, will treat the recommendations from the Citizens' Panels and input gathered from the conference’s multilingual digital platform, where citizens have been making their submissions on directions they feel the EU should be headed.

In the December and January plenaries citizens will present proposals and recommendations, and in the concluding February and March, decisions on possible reforms in the EU will be taken based citizens’ recommendations submitted through the Conference’s digital, multilingual platform.

In all, the Conference Plenary will be composed of 108 representatives from the European Parliament, 54 from the Council (two per Member State) and three from the European Commission, as well as 108 representatives from all national Parliaments on an equal footing, and citizens.

108 Europeans, including Maltese citizens, will participate to discuss ideas stemming from the Citizens' Panels and the Multilingual Digital Platform: 80 representatives from the European Citizens’ Panels, of which at least one third will be younger than 25, and 27 from national Citizens’ Panels or Conference events (one per Member State), as well as the President of the European Youth Forum. The selection process for citizen representatives will be completed in the near future.

Eighteen representatives from both the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee, and another eight from both social partners and civil society will also participate.

The EU is placing great stock in the initiative. Verhofstadt remarked on Wednesday, “The purpose of the Conference is not to make better connections with the citizens, is to elaborate a new vision on the future of Europe. We want to do it based on the input of citizens, which it has been done in the past.

“It is not a PR exercise to show that the EU is listening to citizens, because we listen to the citizens all the time. We have the Eurobarometer, which listens to citizens all the time, or the dialogues.

“This is not a passive listening to citizens, but an active involvement of citizens in a decision-making process.

“The decision-making process is based on the obligation by representatives, national parliaments, European Parliament, Commission and Council to respond the proposals, recommendations and wishes of the citizens’ panels.”

MaltaToday is providing livestream coverage of today’s event

Ewropej Funded by the European Union

This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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