European Union reforms
Sign up for myFT Daily Digest to be the first to know about European Union news.
The tallest glass in the European Parliament in Strasbourg has remained silent in the wake of the epidemic. But this week, it started again when the democratic experiment began with people who are rarely seen in EU institutions: genuine voters.
In an attempt to connect with its citizens and a heated debate over changing the bloc in the aftermath of the Brexit crisis and the Covid-19 epidemic, nearly 200 voters marched down to the French city to take part in the so-called opening of the bloc. European Future Conference.
“I feel like the EU is stuck, they don’t know what to do, and they’ve made citizens to help move forward,” said Christian Helwig, a 65-year-old retired engineer from Frankfurt gymnastics. “What scares me is the fear that if the EU doesn’t go, it will end.”
The conference is an idea of French President Emmanuel Macron who wants to use it to “breathe new life into democracy in our institutions”. Citizens’ constituencies are similar to the “French débat” of 2018 when international conventions were convened to help regulate government elections (but which ultimately ended anonymously).
In Strasbourg, a 16- to 85-year-old representative of EU regions and financial institutions, he participated in a three-day workshop, which took place in all 24 languages of cooperation, finance, education and development justice.
Future sessions will focus on climate change, migration and health information, some of which are face-to-face, some online. The dispute will also lead to further discussions between MEPs and government agencies, with the process reaching its climax with the EU president in France next spring, two months before the elections.
It is a foreign attempt under the auspices of the EU that has often been burdensome for long-term rape and cases of alleged “lack of democracy”. Voters often complain that they do not understand the EU’s progress, and European elections have slowed down – except in 2019 when it reached 50%, the largest in 25 years.
Whether the citizens interviewed during this time will be able to run their affairs at the conference – which includes the acting president, the executive committee and the secretary general – is another matter.
Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister and one of the chairpersons of the conference, told the Financial Times that the “real war” would be to convince EU governments and institutions to interpret the results of the talks, which do not compel them to take action.
Some EU countries have also tried to prevent the convention from being born, saying it is disruptive as many governments continue to fight the epidemic.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban intimidation the seizure and use of the conference to force the dissolution of European law. EU officials are still hoping to launch a campaign in which MEPs could force prosecutors such as a financial alliance or give Brussels greater access to health care.
Comparing the program to the current one, after three days of discussion, the students were interested in prioritizing topics such as the new EU taxes, basic education and competitive opportunities.
“Perhaps this could be the beginning of a new era of co-operative democracy with its representatives,” Verhofstadt said.