Let’s listen to the people: Citizens demand stronger democracy and fundamental EU reform

An independent panel of EU citizens has called for the European Union to be more democratic. As part of the Conference on the Future of Europe (COFE), EU citizens are being asked to help decide on the direction of the EU for the coming years. Greens/EFA MEPs Daniel Freund, Gwen Delbos-Corfield and Damian Boeselager explain how the project works and argue that the EU must trust its citizens by following through on their demands.

Last weekend, 200 randomly-selected European citizens decided on strong recommendations for EU reform. It’s the first time a representative panel of citizens from every EU country, assembled by randomised telephone calls, has deliberated on and made recommendations directly to politicians.

The EU Citizens’ Panel, formed as part of the Conference on the Future of Europe, emphasized that they want a stronger, more democratic Europe that defends its values. They also called for work to begin on a European constitution. The recommendations show that the people of Europe want more democracy, better enforcement of European values and more investment in a fairer economy.

The panel was made up of 200 strangers, all total newcomers to the complex world of EU politics. They gathered over three weekends and put together their proposals in a spirit of serious and friendly deliberation. Seeing people from different countries coming together to dream about a fairer and greener future for the EU is truly inspiring. And that’s why it’s so important that we take these proposals seriously.

It is the duty of European and national politicians to turn these recommendations into laws. The Conference on the Future of Europe was an invitation to our citizens to shape the future of the EU, and so their proposals must be properly implemented. The Greens/EFA Group has always believed in the power of democracy, and we will keep pushing to make sure that the people of Europe are taken seriously.

What changes do citizens want from the EU?

The Citizens’ Panel on democracy, rights, rules of law and security called for several ground-breaking recommendations to be carried out by the EU:

  • European public investment to create good jobs and improve the quality of life across the EU. And incentive schemes for companies to create childcare services at work.
  • Tax Justice: Large companies should be properly taxed, and tax havens in the EU abolished.
  • Independent media should be better protected and financially supported.
  • Tougher measures against EU member states who violate the rule of law. The current rules to freeze EU funding only apply if there’s a threat to the EU budget, but citizens feel this is not enough.
  • A “European Vote”, meaning that European Parties would create lists with candidates from all over Europe (also known as “transnational lists”). EU citizens would then be able to vote for a European list in addition to the national and regional constituencies that exist currently.
  • A European Constitution that protects democracy and fundamental rights and is voted on by the people of Europe.
  • A solution to the problem with unanimity in votes in the Council of Ministers. Currently only one country can veto all the other countries from moving forward with new EU laws. If necessary, this could mean amending the EU Treaties.
  • More assemblies of randomly selected EU citizens to help solve complex problems, with an obligation for politicians to comply with their recommendations or explain why they did not.

What happens next? Politicians must reply to EU citizens’ demands

On Friday 17 December, representatives of the Citizens’ Panel will present their recommendations to the working groups of the Future of Europe Conference. This is where representatives of the EU institutions and national parliaments will give their initial feedback on the people’s proposals. It will be a key litmus test to see how seriously the other political forces are taking them.

On 22 January 2022, the citizens’ recommendations will be debated publicly for the first time in the “plenary session” of the Future of Europe Conference.

By February, three more Citizens’ Panels will vote on their recommendations and also present them in the Conference plenary.

In March, the Conference on the Future of Europe will begin discussing a draft declaration, with the involvement of citizens but also of other EU and national politicians. The conference is supposed to decide on its conclusions in May 2022.

For the final declaration to be adopted, it will need the approval of the European Parliament, European Council and European Commission and also of national parliamentarians in the Conference Plenary.