Europe is what you make it. You have the power to fix the European Union. Not just through voting in national and European elections, but through being an active citizen, through campaigning, pressuring your democratic representatives, and debating and discussing with others the kind of Europe you want to live in.
Launching on Europe Day (9 May 2021), and running for twelve months until Spring 2022, the EU’s Conference on the Future of Europe is a pan-European consultation with citizens on the sort of reforms and future direction they want the 27-member bloc to take. It’s been planned as a completely open debate, with “no taboos” in terms of treaty change or reforms.
How can our readers help fix Europe? Debating Europe spoke to Volt MEP and co-founder Damian Boeselager ahead of the launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
First, we asked him how Debating Europe’s readers can get involved in the Conference. What can they do if they’re interested in having a say on the future of Europe?
They can go to the online platform and organise events and / or submit ideas to be discussed about how Europe could change, and I very much encourage everyone to do that.
I would also say: reach out to your local councilors and your mayors and also national parliamentarians, regional parliamentarians, European parliamentarians and tell them that you care about this topic so that they take it up as well.
Next up, we had a comment from long-time reader Proactive arguing that real change to the EU can only come if there is unanimous agreement between Member State governments.
He argues national referendums would need to be held in all EU countries before any changes proposed in a pan-European exercise such as the Conference on the Future of Europe can actually be implemented:
Changes can only come via Member Nations’ referendums… Any hope or insinuation that it can [be otherwise] is false and disingenuous.
Is Proactive right? If so, what is the purpose of the Conference on the Future of Europe if, ultimately, it can’t lead to anything substantial without treaty change?
How would Volt MEP Damian Boeselager respond?
I think it’s always good to be critical. Sure, it’s important to look at processes and understand how they work, and if they can work, and so on. I think it’s also important to understand that a lot of power still lies with the Member States.
But what we need to do is have a genuine debate with citizens across the continent about what kind of Europe we want to live in. What’s the Europe that you think should exist? What should we do on foreign policy? What should we do on climate? Let’s talk about the topics, rather than the setup. And *then* let’s talk about what kind of changes we need in the setup…
For example, my personal topic would be migration; I believe we need a European immigration code for labour migration, and I believe we need a European asylum system. For that to happen, however, there need to be some changes; some of them can be done without treaty change (for example, through different styles of voting in the Council) and some of them, yes, will need treaty change. So, I think we should just be open and really think freely about what kind of Europe we want to live in, and *then* we should see what kind of changes are needed to achieve that and try to convince everyone of these changes.
What kind of Europe do our readers want to live in? We had a comment sent in from Julia calling for a much more “social EU”, one much more involved with redistribution and social protection:
[I want] a more social EU that takes care of the people before corporations within the EU and outside the EU. Tax the mega-rich. Abolish poverty. Introduce EU-wide benefits and minimum wage.
We also had a comment sent in by Steve arguing in favour of an ultra-minimalist EU, one focused exclusively on free trade:
I would dismantle it and only keep import / export of goods active. Lets face it, taxes, obligations, rules that no one wants. And in this time of COVID they showed they are not united at all, nor do they help their members in case of financial problems or even security. In other words, they create more issues than solutions, without speaking about what it all costs in exorbitant salaries.
What is Damian Boeselager’s vision for Europe? Would he agree more with Julia or with Steve?
I think, first of all, it’s important to have clear visions for the future. Everybody should have a vision, and democracy is about trying to find out which is the prevailing vision, and I do believe that in this debate on Europe’s future we need some brave politicians who share their vision and work to take away the fears of the future that are sometimes being created by the media and by social media…
My personal vision is to have a very democratic Europe, where your vote counts. If you want to have a more liberal Europe, you could vote for more liberal parties and then you would shift the direction of the EU. If you want a more social Europe, you would vote for Social Democrats, the Left parties, and you would shift Europe in that direction. So, the first precondition for my vision of Europe is that I want a functioning parliamentary democracy at the European level. That’s basically the non plus ultra. There should be the feeling that I can vote and, at least if I’m the majority, then Europe would change in that direction.
After that, my personal vision is indeed for a more social Europe. I also want a more innovation-friendly Europe, I want a more green and sustainable Europe, and I want a more fair and just Europe. And I can give you very concrete policy examples for each of these, be it a European immigration code, or be it a functioning climate policy, or be it an actual digitisation and innovation-friendly industrial policy, and so on.
So, there are a range of topics that I care about but, as I said, I think the most important one is that we have these discussions and we have this power to change the direction of Europe with our votes.
What do you think the future of Europe should look like? What is the purpose of the Conference on the Future of Europe if, ultimately, it can’t lead to anything substantial without treaty change? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!