16 Dec 2020, 08.35

The Joint Committee on European Union Affairs has today published its report Proposals for the Conference on the Future of Europe. 

The Joint Committee hopes its new report – which makes a set of recommendations – will contribute to the debate on what the Conference will involve including the issues that will be discussed at the forum.

Chairman of the Joint Committee Joe McHugh TD said: “The EU can be seen as a set of institutions making decisions far removed from citizens daily lives. The Conference on the Future of Europe offers the EU institutions and member states an opportunity to engage and listen to citizens.

“In a post-Brexit Europe and in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, providing citizens with platforms that offer safe and constructive outlets for debate is now more important than ever. It is vital for the democratic legitimacy of the EU, that citizens feel their views are heard and that citizens are given the space to consider the evidence and debate difficult issues.

“We must also ensure that young person’s voices are captured. In recent times we have witnessed young people unite on important issues like climate change and we hope the conference will build on this momentum allowing young people engage with the EU and have their voices heard.”

The Conference on the Future of Europe will be a two-year open forum for citizens to share their views with the EU Institutions on the EU’s future priorities and democratic processes with no pre-determined outcome.

An EU inter-institutional agreement on the Conference has yet to be published.

In considering the topic, the Joint Committee held a series of engagements with Thomas Byrne TD, Minister of State for European Affairs, academics and experts. The report published by the Joint Committee on EU Affairs makes seven recommendations about the event:

  • That National Parliaments take a strong role in promoting the Conference and participating where appropriate.
  • That the provisions of the existing Treaties be maximised before considering any potential Treaty revision or amendment and that EU Institutional issues only be considered if they are a means to implementing a policy.
  • That topics chosen take a practical focus on Europe’s big challenges and policy issues which are of concern to citizens, such as public health, climate change, the digital transition, migration, economic well-being and equality and Europe’s role in the word.
  • That the Conference reflects citizens’ concerns by publishing a clear list of conclusions, and that these conclusions are followed up with appropriate action by the EU institutions.
  • That events organised as part of the Conference facilitate the widest possible participation in a bottom up approach and be structured in such a way to allow practical discussion and debate on issues that matter to citizens with a specific youth aspect included
  • That Ireland participate actively in the Conference through a structure of national-level citizens debates, following a similar model to Citizens Assembly and previous Citizen Dialogues on the Future of Europe.
  • That a diversity of views be sought and that invitations to engage in the Conference reach out to minority groups not historically engaged in EU matters with the use of digital platforms maximised in order to reach as many citizens as possible.

Deputy McHugh said: “The Committee believes that Ireland leads the way in citizen dialogue in the form of citizen assemblies and by providing citizens with objective information on specific topics, experience has shown us that sensible conclusions can be reached.”

He added: “Europe is evolving at a rapid pace and we urge all parties to act immediately in establishing the conference and agreeing a start date.”

Watch chairman of the EU Affairs Committee Joe McHugh TD speak in more detail about the report.

Read the full report.

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Committee membership

Deputies

Sinn Féin

Fianna Fáil

Sinn Féin

Independent

Fianna Fáil

Green Party

Fine Gael

Senators

Independent

Sinn Féin

Fianna Fáil

Fine Gael

Fianna Fáil