The EU seeks answers for its future by asking citizens | International
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While President Vladimir Putin celebrated World War II Victory Day in Moscow with a military parade in the midst of the invasion of Ukraine, Europe Day was commemorated in Strasbourg on Monday with the presentation of a series of citizen proposals. The presidents of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, and of France, Emmanuel Macron, have been in charge, on behalf of the European institutions, of receiving the 49 initiatives presented by the citizens of the Twenty-seven at the closing of the Conference on the Future of Europe (COFOE), a recently created debate forum that invites us to rethink the European Union based on the opinions of Europeans. “The future of Europe is more powerful than Putin’s tanks,” Von der Leyen proclaimed during her speech at the Parliament building. The community leader, like Metsola and Macron, has promised to comply with the proposals put forward by the citizens, even if this requires reforming the treaties.
With the Conference on the Future of Europe, Europeans have shown that they want to build a better future by living up to the most enduring promises of the past.
– Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) May 9, 2022
The COFOE “is a unique opportunity for European citizens to debate the challenges, priorities and direction they want to set for the EU”, as defined by Brussels. After a year of work, in which 6,650 events have been organized with more than 53,000 participants, citizens have submitted 49 proposals that include 300 specific measures. The representatives of the European institutions have extolled some of these measures in their speeches, such as, for example, the one that calls for the reinforcement of defense or the promotion of renewable energies to end the use of fossil fuels; which would limit the need for foreign supplies, especially from Russia. “We need an economically autonomous Europe, in terms of energy, agriculture, industry and health,” said Jean Régis, a 68-year-old French citizen who spoke before the plenary in Strasbourg. “The war reminds us how fragile our democracies are. The fight for our freedom must never be forgotten”, the man stressed in front of more than a hundred attendees.
“The future of Europe is linked to the future of Ukraine”, stressed Metsola during his speech. The violence unleashed by Moscow in the former Soviet republic has already left more than 4.2 million refugees. Migration and the reception of refugees have also been discussed in the COFOE sessions. Another claim has been a reinforcement of Frontex, as well as a policy of equitable distribution of people who require international protection in European territory. For Laura Cinquini, a 23-year-old anthropology student and participant in this panel, it is “one of the most important proposals.” “A European agency must be created to address migration with a common approach”, said Cinquini, who also asked the institutions to fulfill the citizen mandate: “Do not waste this opportunity, do not disappoint us, because we have never felt so united and Europeans like now”, highlighted the young Italian, applauded by the audience.
“To ensure that we respond quickly, the proposals presented here will be in my speech on the State of the Union in September,” Von der Leyen promised to respond to citizen demands. In addition, the policy noted that some proposals are already being worked on, such as the establishment of an electronic health passport, with information from the health records of citizens throughout the European territory. Von der Leyen, Metsola and Macron also agreed to review the Union’s treaties to comply with the COFOE mandate; a gesture because there is still no consensus among the institutions to make it real.
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The President of the Commission also spoke about Ukraine’s request for accession to the EU: “For Ukraine there is a special pass in the EU that we will have to pay for with the combination of massive investments and reforms,” she said at a press conference after the event. “Joining is the only answer”, remarked Macron at the closing of the COFOE meeting: “This path [basado en la participación ciudadana] that we have begun to draw together in Strasbourg should serve us to build a just and ambitious sovereign Europe”.
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