Addressing a jam packed Hemicycle at the European Parliament in Brussels, the President of the European Parliament spoke about the importance of the ideas and proposals made by citizens during the Conference on the Future of Europe. "When it comes to implementing our citizens’ proposals, no suggestion for change should be off-limits. Whatever process is required in order for us to get there should be embraced."
© European Union | The President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola addressing the Conference on the Future of Europe feedback Event
Welcome to the European Parliament!
On Europe day of 2021, at the Inaugural event of the Conference on the Future of Europe, my friend and predecessor David Sassoli, spoke about the importance of a proper and meaningful follow-up to the results of this historic exercise, by the three institutions, each at their own levels of competence. He said, and I quote: “This vision of our European project will be the compass that must guide our work in the decade to come.”
I am proud to stand before you all, as President of the European Parliament to assure you that, this institution is holding itself to its word. We were the first institution to react to your proposals in May of this year, and later also in June. Our Constitutional Affairs Committee is busy working on another report, which could be voted upon in the next weeks. Today, we are gathered here in the House of European Democracy - your House - to take stock of what we have done.
Let me start with my personal feedback. I was elected in January of this year. Since then I have met with hundreds - thousands - of people in my role as President of the European Parliament. I have met with Prime Ministers, Presidents, politicians and citizens of all ages, from all 27 Member States. Many of these meetings have one thing in common: they all want to talk to me about the Future of Europe.
They ask me about the Conference, about the proposals that many of you in this room helped form. They ask me about strengthening the links between citizens and their elected representatives and about increasing the transparency of EU decision making. One thing has been universally clear: people want more European democracy.
They also speak to me about legislation. They ask me about climate change and the environment. About the circular economy, the ban on single-use plastics, about high-speed and night-trains and reducing our dependency on imported oil and gas.
They talk about the impact of the pandemic on their lives, and ask about the European Health Union, about mental health and about cross-border exchange of health data.
People want to see a stronger economy, social justice and jobs, and many of them ask how the digital transition, the working-time directive, the Youth Guarantee and how tax policies that support European industry can help achieve this.
They also speak to me about migration, about revising our common asylum system so that we can be fair and humane with those seeking protection, firm with those who are not eligible and strong with traffickers who exploit some of the most vulnerable people on our planet.
They ask me about the role of young people in shaping the Future of Europe. About lifelong learning, voting at 16, sport, the Youth check on legislation, about inclusivity and gender equality.
People are worried about the role of Europe in the world - framed in the context of a war in Ukraine, where the implications on our democracy are clear.
They ask about our Union’s security and defence, about cyber-security measures, about protecting our values: freedom, democracy and the rule of law, about measures to support a pluralistic, free and independent press.
Fortunately, many of the building-blocks to implement your proposals are already in place. And here let me say that I am encouraged to see that the 2023 Commission Work Programme includes many legislative proposals relating to what the Conference proposed. As history - including recent history - has shown, the European Parliament, as co-legislator, stands ready to do its part - diligently, effectively and quickly - in the interest of the 450 million European constituents and that it ultimately represents.
As I said in May, I’ll say again: when it comes to implementing our citizens’ proposals, no suggestion for change should be off-limits. Whatever process is required in order for us to get there should be embraced. Including a convention. The Commission is also here today and I know that the commitment given is shared by our Institutions.
Our goal must be to improve and reform our systems. Nothing should be off the table, including Treaty Change because vision takes courage.
When I look at you all here, seated in the very same places that your elected representatives vote upon legislation, I am reminded of how important the participatory element of the Conference on the Future of Europe was. Citizens talking to decision-makers was undoubtedly an outstanding part of this exercise. It should not be something exceptional.
This is where the European Parliament, made up of 705 directly elected members, needs to do more.
Let me give you an example of a young girl I met recently.
As we started speaking, I quickly noticed that she had so many positive ideas about how the European Union can help make things a little bit easier for the people who live in her area. I suggested that she writes to her Member of European Parliament. She replied: “you can do that?”
Sometimes it seems like the only contact people have with their elected representatives is through a ‘like’ or ‘comment’ on a social media post. Of course, we cannot force citizens to talk to their elected representatives but I believe we can do more to raise awareness that:
Yes, citizens can write to their Members of European Parliament.
Yes, citizens can suggest new ideas to them.
Yes, citizens can recommend new proposals.
And in fact they should. Because that is our responsibility. That is where we need to show in 2024 that what you told us in 2019, we listened to and we worked on, and we delivered.
The European Parliament is not here in these buildings - it is in every town and village in our Union.
The Conference on the Future of the Europe and the 49 proposals that you presented to us on the 9th of May are not the end. This was not a one-off exercise for the European Union. Your proposals are not some checklist that we need to tick, to close the door on the Conference on the Future of Europe once and for all.
Because this exercise was ultimately about readying our Union for the future - whether that be tomorrow, the future next week, next year or in 10 years’ time. There is no end-date to the future. And there is no end-date to our Union growing and continuing to evolve. What works for EU27 will not work for EU33 or EU36. We have Ukraine, Moldova, the Western Balkans and Georgia getting ready - are we?
The Future is a work in progress. So is our Union.
As Robert Schuman said: ‘Europe will not be made all at once’. And today I add, that it can never be complete. It grows and develops with each hurdle we pass through. With each breakthrough, we achieve. With each piece of legislation that manages to make our shared space a little bit safer, a little bit fairer and a little bit more equal.
As President of the European Parliament, I can commit to you that we will keep working until we can say that this project is even better than it is today.
Thank you very much.