The event was organized on this symbolic day of Europe Day. Emmanuel Macron pleaded, Sunday May 9, for a more agile European Union, deciding “Faster and stronger”. These announcements are made on the occasion of the launch in Strasbourg of the Conference on the Future of Europe, a vast citizen consultation.
“Faced with authoritarianism, the only valid answer is the authority of democracy” who “Only won by efficiency and speed”, advanced the Head of State from the sparse hemicycle of the seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, transformed for the occasion into a kind of television set.
“Our European democracy is a democracy of compromise, of balance, which is a virtue that we must protect, but it is also a weakness when it suffocates in its own procedures. “
For Emmanuel Macron, Europe must “Decide faster and stronger”, in particular to strengthen ” sovereignty “ the continent in strategic sectors such as health, while the EU has been strongly criticized for its management of the health crisis.
Strengthening the European dimension of Strasbourg
The French president also took advantage of his presence in Strasbourg to underline in front of the heads of the European institutions the “Living symbol” represented by this city in the history of European construction. “This is where the heart of European democracy beats”, he said, while the Strasbourg seat of the European Parliament has been deserted since February 2020 by MEPs due to the health crisis, to the benefit of Brussels and to the chagrin of France.
The president of the institution, the Italian David Sassoli, said “Don’t doubt[er] that the European Parliament will be able to return to Strasbourg very soon ”, but without advancing a date, while Emmanuel Macron wanted the June plenary session to mark his return to the Alsatian capital.
After kicking off the Conference on the Future of Europe, Emmanuel Macron also signed a three-year contract with local authorities to strengthen Strasbourg’s European dimension. Appellant “On the return of major projects” and “Great ambitions”, the French president underlined that this conference represented “An unprecedented exercise” for “Envision our future” in the next ten years.
Appeal to young people
This democratic consultation, with an online platform which should allow European citizens to share their vision of the future of Europe and be supplemented in France by “Citizen consultations”, should extend over a year and make its proposals when France assumes the rotating presidency of the EU.
A timing which is timely for the Head of State who intends to make this presidency of the EU an asset for the presidential election of May 2022. Despite the bitter negotiations between institutions which have cast doubt on the will of the EU to draw from this whole process real political orientations, Emmanuel Macron as well as the leaders of the EU assured Sunday that they would take into account the proposals of the citizens.
This conference “Should not remain an exercise centered in Brussels”, considered Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, whose country currently chairs the EU. The President of the European Parliament, the Italian David Sassoli, has already suggested several avenues of reform, pleading for a strengthening of the role of his institution with a right of initiative in legislative matters, like that of the national parliaments, and believing that citizens should be able to vote on the presidency of the European Commission.
He also questioned the rule of unanimity in the Council, where the member states sit, believing that it hindered decision-making and allowed “External geopolitical actors” of “Take advantage of the divisions” between the Twenty-Seven.
Despite a rather formal and sluggish ceremony, young Europeans were urged to take up this conference. “We are at a particularly important time for young people, so that they can express themselves”, said Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission.
The main unknown remains precisely the participation of citizens in the debate, after a previous consultation in 2018 which was lost in limbo and a similar initiative in 2002 which had given birth to the draft European Constitution, destroyed by the ” no “ French and Dutch referendums.