The Conference on the Future of Europe is a major European meeting of multi-level debate of political scope and impact. The Conference opens up two opportunities: to revitalise the link between civil society and the European project and to strengthen its integration process by reviewing the EU's decision-making method.
The European institutions, national parliaments, Member State governments and bodies from different spheres will listen to European citizens in a major EU debate. This exercise, which strengthens democratic legitimacy, has been carried out on other occasions. The most important in terms of their impact on real politics have been the two European Conventions: the one that created the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, legally linked to the Treaty of Lisbon, and the one that drew up the Draft European Constitution. It is true that it was not possible to express it as such, a Constitution, due to the stalemate in France and the Netherlands in their respective referendums, but almost all of its provisions are included in the Treaty of Lisbon.
For the Conference to be a success, it must be structured in a very orderly fashion. On one level, it should focus on the key issues of our time: the European recovery plan, the rule of law, the European Green Pact, the migration pact, solidarity, digitalisation. On another level dedicated to substantive policy, an analysis of European policy should be carried out, focusing on issues that require attention, such as the transition from unanimity to qualified majority voting, the return to the Spitzenkandidat model, and the debate on transnational lists and what they would entail. At this level of major policy that will raise European sovereignty, the possibility of convening a new Convention, the third European Convention, should be on the table. This body would have the fundamental objective of rewriting and giving light to the European Constitution.
It is essential that the issues linked to the political deepening of the European Union take full account of the fact that the progress of European integration is linked to the revision and reform of the Treaty.
With regard to the establishment of a permanent mechanism for consultation with the citizens, my experience of previous European institutional initiatives leads me to say that the more structured and orderly it is, the better chance it has of becoming anchored and establishing itself as a model.
I believe that in European supranational democracy it is representative democracy that should be at the helm and participatory democracy that should complement it. I also believe that at the Conference on the Future of Europe it is the European institutions that must set the agenda and the agenda. This is the only way to achieve a document with weight and the capacity to shape the future. In these political times it is important to institutionalise a model of debate with civil society. The 2001 Laeken Declaration, the Declaration on the Future of Europe, opened the way to this necessary permanent listening.
I would like to stress that, while permanent joint working bodies, European institutions and representatives of civil society could be set up, the European parliamentary model must not be altered in the slightest in its solemn, democratic and representative exercise. Of course, the doors of the hemicycle can be opened on occasion, as was done on a large scale at the first Agora, Brussels 2007, but the significance of the European Parliament with its power and its voice of European representative democracy must always be preserved. Our MEPs represent us.
The European political projection is unfolding and will have more visibility at the Conference on the Future of Europe. The European Parliament is the leading institution by nature of this great debate that will set the future path of the EU.
The European Union is redefining and reaffirming its political model based on an integration project and process. It is necessary to learn from the past, from the European road mapped out. To shape the present and weave the future, we must look with pride at what we are, European citizens.
Susana del Río Villar, PhD in Political Science, Director of the expert group Convention on the Future of Europe, Academic Fide of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts and Director of Institutional Relations of Citizens Pro Europe.