70 years have passed since the French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman made a speech that would lead to the first European treaty, aimed at creating a European Coal and Steel Community. Over the course of these 70 years, Europe has evolved into a Union that has given rise to what we know today as the European Union, in the spirit of avoiding further wars on European soil.
Since its birth, the Union has faced a series of challenges appropriate to each historical moment, from the creation of a common currency to the free movement of members of European countries. Now, our reality is very different and Europe is calling for the creation of solutions that are sufficient and effective to address the challenges that Europe must face. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the slow response of health systems, which are not sufficiently prepared to deal with a pandemic of such magnitude. It has also highlighted the EU's dependence on countries such as China for the procurement of medical supplies and medicines.
In this sense, Europe does not want to be left behind in the race and the struggle for leadership between the Asian giant and the United States, which is why the Conference of Europe aims to be the foundations of a new European construction that is capable of facing the current challenges and "recovering industrial production". At the opening ceremony of the Conference in Madrid, promoted by the European Movement of the Spanish Federal Council, the former President of the European Parliament, José María Gil Robles, stressed that "we cannot understand what we are doing if we do not know where we are going".
In this line, he stressed that "Europe is an open constituent process that changed the meaning of history". Now the constituent process is working to achieve European federalism in order to try to achieve and maintain "a supranational democracy, with common objectives and values that make Europe stronger and more democratic" so that Europe becomes a "reference point for a better future".
On the other hand, the Vice-President of the UGT, Cristina Antoñanzas, said that the aim of these constituent processes is for "policies to be integrated into the treaties". In this respect, the Porto declaration was a success in the sense of maintaining emergency health measures, as well as in the defence of a fair and sustainable recovery and the promotion of gender equality. In addition, the integration of the UGT as a member of the Conference makes it possible to "defend that the social partners have their rightful place in the debates and conclusions of the Conference, and this is not yet fully guaranteed".
These aspects are part of an extensive set of resolutions that the Conference wants to address in terms of Democracy, as well as promoting citizen participation, the creation of a social, sustainable, creative and prosperous Europe and enhancing Europe's role in the world in order to "forge optimal relations between EU member states and other major regional powers, including the United States, China and the United Kingdom".
However, the development and spread of the pandemic has highlighted the need for all European countries to join forces to ensure health development. The President of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, Iratxe García, stressed that "the pandemic has shown that the Conference is more necessary than ever".
In addition to this, the President wanted to stress the importance of citizenship in the Conference, as for the first time, it would attempt to break the established structures of power and top-down decision-making so that society could participate in the new European project. According to García, the future of the Conference and its development "will be what the citizens want it to be".
Along with the current health crisis, other issues that have been addressed and which are intended to be one of the main aspects of the new European project are digitalisation, climate change and the migration crisis. In this aspect, Europe is appealing to the solidarity of all the countries that make up the Union to take in the different waves of refugees from countries that are in states of war in the Middle East and Africa, so that not only the Mediterranean countries take charge of this humanitarian crisis.
In this sense, and in view of the situation of the migratory crisis, the vice-president of the CFEME, Eugenio Nasarre, confessed that "we have not been able to find a solution". In addition to this, the birth rate in Europe is decreasing in a worrying way and there is already talk of a birth crisis. At present, 6% of the world's population is European and this translates into a significant loss of the EU's economic influence on a global scale. If we add to this the American and Latin American population, which would make up "the old West", we would have 20% of the total world population while the Chinese country alone would account for 26% of the total inhabitants.
In this respect, another of the main problems facing the European Union is the issue of governance, as the slogan of "Common Vision, Joint Action" is often difficult to maintain because of the clash of political interests between the different parties.
However, the Conference is intended to be a solution to all these problems. The ambitious plan is to bring Europe closer to the people so that they are aware of their role in the political, social and economic shaping of the new Europe. In the joint declaration on the Conference, Ursula Von der Leyden stated that "it will be a unique opportunity for all European citizens and our civil society to shape the future of Europe, a common project for the functioning of European democracy". Now, from Madrid, political representatives of opposing parties together with trade union and social organisations agree on a key point that is intended to be the spirit of the new European Union "to respect European values to improve people's lives" as Europe is the child of "necessity and unity in diversity".