‘Historic’ digital platform gives citizens their say in Conference on the Future of Europe

‘This is not a not a consultation or a Eurobarometer survey, citizens will be the actual flywheel of the Conference’ – MEP Guy Verhofstadt

The Conference on the Future of Europe officially opened for business yesterday with the launch of a new multilingual digital platform aimed at encouraging and facilitating citizens’ contributions toward the upcoming Conference.

The Conference on the Future of Europe will be inaugurated on 9 May (Europe Day) 2021 after having been postponed for a year because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Speaking at today’s launch event, one of the Conference’s three co-chairs, MEP Guy Verhofstadt (Renew, BE), termed the digital platform and its unique means of multi-lingual communication between countries and languages as “historic”.

EU citizens, he said, are now being placed front and centre when it comes to the generation of ideas about the bloc’s future.

Verhofstadt commented at the event: “This is not a consultation or a Eurobarometer survey, citizens will be the actual flywheel of the conference. And they will be able to participate in a number of different ways: passively, by subscribing to an account and simply getting information; in an active way, by expressing their opinions or participating in debates; or by becoming activists for the Conference by creating their own events on the platform.

“This has never been done before. We have seen citizens’ panels before in Ireland and in France, but this is the first time this is being done on a transnational, European level.

“What we want is very open and real discussion, the kind of which social media allows for today. Citizens should not shy away from any discussion because nothing is impossible, if people are clear about the issues they want to see on the EU’s agenda, we will try to achieve that.”

European Commission Vice President for Democracy and Demography Dubravka Šuica labelled the platform’s launch as a “historic moment and a giant endeavour for what will be a truly an ambitious Conference bringing citizens into the heart of Europe’s policy-making”. 

The platform, she said, will serve as the “hub” of the conference and, in what she described as a “true innovation for European democracy”, the platform will provide for all the EU’s 24 official languages to be translated in real time into any other respective language. “The future,” she said, “is yours and the future is in your hands”.

The third co-chair, Portuguese Secretary of State for EU Affairs on behalf of the Presidency of the Council of the EU Ana Paula Zacarias, ensured that the exercise is one in listening and that “we will be dealing with every matter that citizens bring to us”.

The new platform that has now gone online will enable citizens, for the first time at pan-EU level, to voice their own ideas, comment on those of others, as well as to create and participate in events. It will serve as the Conference’s central hub, a place where all contributions to the Conference will be brought together and shared, including decentralised events, the European Citizens’ Panels and Conference Plenary sessions.

Commenting yesterday, European Parliament President David Sassoli said: “The platform represents a key tool to allow citizens to participate and have a say on the Future of Europe. We must be certain that their voices will be heard and that they have a role in the decision-making, regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“European democracy, of the representative and participatory kind, will continue to function no matter what, because our shared future demands it.”

Apart from providing their own input, participants will also be able to comment on other people's ideas, create and participate in events over the platform, and the European Parliament, the EU Council and the European Commission have committed to listen to Europeans and to follow up on that input.

A specialised feedback mechanism will aggregate and analyse key points raised by citizens so they can be taken into account during the European Citizens’ panels and Conference Plenary sessions. The feedback will be collected, analysed, monitored and published on the platform throughout the Conference.

The platform will also provide information on the Conference’s structure and work, as well as resources for event organisers including a catalogue of key events through which they will be able to promote their initiatives at local, regional, national, and European levels.

Citizens will also be able to look up events in which they want to participate thanks to an events map.

Government agency Servizzi Ewropej f’Malta, together with its partners, will be promoting the Conference in Malta and will also be assisting individuals and organisations to access the multilingual digital platform or to hold events and put forward ideas and initiatives.

By spring 2022, the Conference is expected to reach conclusions and provide guidance on the future of Europe.

How to access the digital platform

To access the platform you have to sign-in through the EU Login. The EU Login is the entry gate to sign in to different European Commission services and/or other systems. EU Login verifies your identity and allows recovering your personal settings, history and access rights in a secure way.

If you do not already have an EU login account, go to https://webgate.ec.europa.eu/cas/login and click the ‘Create an account’ link on the EU Login main page. Follow the steps to create an account.

How the Conference will be held

Multilingual digital platform – for citizens to share ideas and send online submissions. These will be collected, analysed, monitored and published throughout the Conference.

Decentralised events – online, in-person and hybrid events held by people and organisations as well as national, regional and local authorities across Europe.

European Citizens’ Panels – will discuss different topics and put forward their proposals. They will be representative in terms of geographic origin, gender, age, socioeconomic background and/or level of education.

Conference Plenary sessions – to ensure that the recommendations from the national and European citizens’ panels, grouped by themes, are debated without a predetermined outcome and without limiting the scope to pre-defined policy areas. The Conference Plenary will be composed of representatives from the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission, as well as representatives from all national Parliaments, on an equal footing and citizens. The Committee of the Regions and the Economic and Social Committee, the social partners, and civil society will also be represented. The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy will be associated when the international role of the EU is discussed. Representatives of key stakeholders may be invited. An Executive Board will draw and publish the conclusions of the Conference Plenary.

For assistance, Servizzi Ewropej f’Malta can be contacted on: 2200 3300, [email protected], or facebook.com/servizziewropej.  The agency is also accepting contributions by post at 280, Republic Street, Valletta VLT1112

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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