A few days ago, I received an official response from European Commissioner Thierry Breton on a link between the EU's economic recovery and the continuation of European integration.
The French commissioner emphasized that the crisis had strengthened the position of those who wanted "more Europe". According to him, populists in various European countries have been forced to remain silent. He was also adamant that Europe has coped better with the crisis than the United States, where he said there has been "chaos".
“Asked by European communication expert Dan Luca whether the EU does not need a third major project, following the success of the internal market and the single currency, Breton said the Commission believes its new proposals are the basis for another historic breakthrough”.
To ensure the recovery is sustainable, level, inclusive and fair for all Member States, the European Commission is proposing to create a new recovery instrument, Next Generation EU, embedded within a powerful, modern and revamped long-term EU budget.
The symbolism is brilliant, "the EU for the next generation" and projects us a little in the optimistic atmosphere of 6 months ago when Ursula von der Leyen presented her priorities for the mandate. It was then mentioned that the talks on the future of the EU would be relaunched. The date of the Conference on the Future of the EU was announced: 9 May 2020. The Corona crisis has frozen this project, but various voices call for a relaunch of the procedure, which should be adapted to the current context.
“The mechanism for fixing the European society has already been instituted. It is the Conference on the Future of Europe. What the EU needs to do is to transform this from a simple debate to something more meaningful, more fundamental and more radical. Today we are facing the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomorrow we may face an even bigger challenge. Let’s think about this crisis as a chance for the EU to lead the world to a better future, for all, together. To lead the way to a stronger, more prosperous Union. The way to a crucial international actor.”
An alliance between institutions (European and national), civil society and business is needed.
European Movement gathered now the views of some of the most senior figures involved in the debate, like Commission VP Šuica and Ambassador Clauss, Germany’s Permanent Representative to the EU, to explore where to go next for the “Conference”.
European Federalists urge European Institutions, Member States and the upcoming Presidency of the Council of the EU to ensure the Conference on the Future of Europe can start as soon as possible. “The scope of the Conference should be broad and aimed at developing policy priorities that matter to citizens, as well as institutional proposals, including proposals for treaty change or a new treaty framework. The agenda and scope of the Conference must include both a critical assessment of the balance of competences between the EU and Member States, including the fiscal competencies of the European Union, as well as a thorough reconsideration of the balance of powers between the Institutions. The prospect of a European Constitution should be considered”. Read here the full statement of the Future of Europe CSO Network.
Not every opportunity automatically turns into success, and the EU knows that. It is important to have a realistic and inclusive plan. A strategic approach related to economic recovery, digitalization, environmental protection, but also connected to global multilateralism is needed. The discussion on the future of the EU must begin institutionally now and should be rapidly extended to civil society and business. Only together we can succeed…