Ceremony for the signing of the joint declaration on the Conference on the future of Europe 

Speech by European Parliament President David Sassoli

I would like to welcome Prime Minister Antonio Costa and President Ursula von der Leyen to our Chamber on the occasion of this ceremony, on this special day for European democracy.

Today we are signing the joint declaration in which our three institutions commit to launch the Conference for the future of Europe on 9 May. In this regard, I would like to thank Prime Minister Costa, who was personally involved in the negotiations to enable an agreement to be reached between Parliament, the Commission, and the Council.

Finally, dear colleagues, we are off.

The Conference on the Future of Europe will be a unique opportunity for all European citizens and civil society, with the opportunity to shape our common future.

We need to start this construction. And in this process we want to put citizens and civil society at the center, but also national parliaments, regions, local actors,, social partners, academia, young people. This conference aims to be a new forum for debate in which young Europeans will have a special place, as they are the first to be affected by the future of the European project.

By putting European citizens at the center of this process, by consulting them, by involving them in the debates throughout the conference, they will have the opportunity to address the issues that are dear to them, and we are committed to listening to their expectations, their concerns, their ideas.  That's why the conference will be an innovative event, and that's why it can be a "game changer".

The pandemic is hitting our citizens hard, employees and self-employed, young people, women, the elderly, the cultural and health sectors. It has affected our economies, our schools, our jobs. Over the past year, all Europeans have seen their daily lives turned upside down. Europe is facing a very difficult, dramatic moment, but the solidarity it embodies can be the only response to this crisis. The Union will be at the center of our economic and social recovery, just as it will continue to be at the center of the vaccination strategy. A united and supportive approach remains the only way forward, and our citizens' expectations of Europe are enormous.

In this context, it is essential to continue to give Europe the right tools to respond to these expectations, of this call for solidarity, to prepare for future challenges. This is why the Conference must be a moment of reflection to draw lessons from this crisis, but also to strengthen European democracy. If Europe is to be able to address global issues and adapt to a changing world, it must equip itself with the means to be more effective, more democratic, more flexible, more resilient.

Democracy is fragile, as events this January in Washington and other countries has shown us. And for it to work, it must be defended, protecting the common good and ensuring the participation, transparency and involvement of citizens in democratic life. To encourage the participation of our society. It is urgent to renew our democratic pact by renewing the link with our society.

A true European public space is emerging. We have seen it more than ever in the adversity we have face this year. The crisis has revealed a true Europeanisation of public opinion. The conviction of our unity and the awareness of a common destiny are now shared by the majority of European citizens and decision-makers, and they feed each other. Now we must lay the foundations for a new European social contract and strengthen Europe, so that it can weather crises to come, and is equipped with the strategic horizons and the capacity to be more resilient.

"Listening, discussing and changing Europe together" is what our three institutions are committed to doing today by launching the Conference on the future of Europe on 9 May.

But above all, today we are firmly committed to guaranteeing the follow-up of the recommendations and conclusions that the Conference will produce. It is essential that this exercise leads to concrete actions, legislative changes, treaty changes, if this is desired and desirable. We are committed to not having taboos and to making sure that the results can offer a real vision for our European project. Our credibility as representatives of the institutions is at stake, as representatives of the citizens, our future and the future of our democracies are at stake.

And now we have the opportunity to rediscover the soul of the European project and bring it into the contemporary world.

We therefore invite all European citizens to participate in the Conference and build the Europe of tomorrow, so that it truly becomes "their Europe."