• This report studies the position, aspirations, expectations and fears of Europe’s middle classes concerning some of the key challenges that the EU is facing. It is based on an extensive online survey carried out in all 27 EU member states. It reveals an acute economic insecurity and fear of falling behind among EU citizens, especially in the lower social strata. It also shows that this crisis of citizens’ expectations and prospects is a threat to political stability, as it feeds into a dangerous crisis of legitimacy and trust in public institutions and political parties. Concerns may be most strongly expressed in the economic field, but also extend to the possible consequences of the war in Ukraine and the broader geopolitical realignments it entails. In particular, the combination of middle-class insecurity and relatively high levels of trust in Russia in parts of Southern and Eastern Europe should be highlighted. However, citizens also think that most challenges can be tackled and reversed through adequate political and policy action. In particular, the centre–right’s approaches to security, immigration and the economy retain great appeal among the European middle classes; there is a need to better connect with the lower middle classes though. Citizens also have a high estimation of the problem-solving capacity of civil-society actors and a relatively high level of trust in the EU. An inclusive narrative addressing European challenges on the basis of safety, stability, justice, freedom and cooperation could help to reassure Europe’s middle classes. Centre–right forces have a fundamental role to play in this process.

    Centre-Right EU Member States Future of Europe Middle Class

    Middle-Class Concerns and European Challenges: A Data-Driven Study from a Centre–Right Perspective

    Future of Europe

    15 Sep 2023

  • On 24 February 2022, conventional interstate conflict returned to Europe after Russia launched an unprovoked war against Ukraine. Although some predicted at the time that Kyiv would fall in a matter of days, the Ukrainian people continue to fight to defend their homeland and push Russia out. Their bravery and determination should be saluted, and the international community should continue to show solidarity towards Ukraine.

    Russia’s invasion is a major breach of international law, specifically the principle that the borders of recognised states should not be changed by the force of arms. Ukrainians voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and the USSR’s successor state, the Russian Federation, recognised Ukrainian independence in the 1994 Budapest Memorandum. Allowing Russia’s aggression to stand would weaken this principle and provide a precedent for other aggressive states to extend their frontiers by force.

    It is unclear how much longer the war will last. Russia has remained committed to waging war against Ukraine, and Ukraine has ruled out any peace that does not involve the return of all its occupied provinces, including the province of Crimea. Furthermore, the land that Ukraine is seeking to free from Russian occupation is perceived by both sides as part of their national identity, but it remains Ukrainian under international law. This means that the chances for a sustainable peace deal are currently rather slim. The EU must therefore prepare for a protracted Russo-Ukrainian war, characterised by intermittent periods of escalation and de-escalation.

    To deal with such a conflict, the EU needs an action plan. The objectives of this action plan should be to (1) push Russia to cease all hostilities towards Ukraine and withdraw its forces as a first step beyond the 24 February 2022 borders, (2) assist Ukraine in recovering and rebuilding itself, (3) facilitate Ukraine’s accession to the EU, and (4) enhance the EU’s strategic sovereignty, i.e., its capacity to react and deal with external shocks. To reach these goals, a set of short, medium, and long-term options are presented below.

    EU-Russia Foreign Policy Future of Europe Ukraine

    The War in Ukraine and the Way Forward


    28 Mar 2023

  • 2023 Brexit European Union Future of Europe United Kingdom

    Bridge The Channel – Our Predictions For 2023

    Bridge the Channel - Multimedia

    19 Jan 2023

  • After its launch in May 2021, the Conference on the Future of Europe now finds itself needing somewhat of a boost. Intended as a participatory process to address the “collective future” of the European Union, the Conference wants to create a conversation on the Union’s future, backed by a tacit commitment that the European Commission, Council, and Parliament would follow up on the final recommendations.

    The subjects tackled are wide-ranging. Some topics, such as climate change, the economy, health, digital transformation, migration, and youth, may direct policy outcomes. Other discussions tend to be more existential, including those on the EU’s place in the world, the nature of values, rights, the rule of law, and European democracy. Yet, despite this plethora of topics (or because of this extremely wide range of topics), the conversation seems to have stalled.

    Some pitfalls were hard to predict. The epidemiological situation delayed initial progress for the Conference, and the volatile situation has rendered frank face-to-face conversations somewhat difficult, further stunting the discussion. Rather than focus on the future of Europe, the conversation naturally shifted to mitigating the effects of COVID-19, combatting the spread of the virus, and measures aimed at kickstarting the economy. However, the two discussions need not be mutually exclusive.

    Other pitfalls were easier to discern:

    The danger of apathy always lurked in the background. Though considerable effort has been made to ensure the Conference will succeed, this format may not be the best way to foster a wide-ranging participatory debate that reaches achievable conclusions.

    More importantly, the outcome of the Conference remains unclear. Though the Commission has committed itself to implementing its conclusions, it is still uncertain whether these will be ambitious enough to address some severe shortcomings or be merely perfunctory.

    The ultimate question will be whether the Conference will address critical concerns or create further lacunae that fuel more frustration among EU citizens.  

    Lacklustre participation and predictable outcomes are likely to have the opposite effect of what the Conference intended to achieve – namely, a broad discussion on the EU backed by popular legitimacy.

    This, however, contrasts with what takes place in the public arena. The political debate has long been dominated by what Europe means and where the EU should go. As a result, successive elections in different countries have returned results which can be interpreted as votes of confidence (or no-confidence) in some aspects of the European project. Therefore, one can conclude that the debate on the future of Europe takes place regardless of whether it is formalised or not.

    There are some steps which can be taken to add relevance to the Conference on the Future of Europe.

    Firstly, the Conference is hampered by the limited time during which it can make its deliberations. Such a conversation requires careful thought, and changing circumstances warrant the consideration of an extension, within which these discussions can properly take place. Unfortunately, President Macron’s wish to have this Conference conclude during the rotating French Presidency of the Council makes this almost impossible.

    Secondly, the discussion on the future of Europe is now intertwined with the post-COVID-19 scenario (or, rather, with the evolving COVID-19 situation), as the pandemic and its consequences are likely to affect all of the key areas discussed by the Conference. In effect, the EU’s future reputation hinges on how it responds to such issues.

    Thirdly, the EU needs to tacitly recognise that the conversation over the future of Europe is taking place regardless of whether it is formalised in such processes. These debates are often over-simplified and boxed in two camps – those broadly seen as being “pro-EU” and those which are more eurosceptic.

    However, when one delves into the general discussions on the EU, one finds a somewhat nuanced view where legitimate concerns over certain policy aspects coexist with the genuine desire for further collaboration in others. In essence, this encapsulates one of the very key principles which the EU should cherish – that of subsidiarity.

    As the Conference begins to draw its conclusions, all eyes will be on how the institutions react and what their next steps will be.

    André P. Debattista EU Institutions European Union Future of Europe

    André P. Debattista

    Prospects for the Conference on the Future of Europe


    16 Dec 2021

  • Federico Ottavio Reho China COVID-19 European Union Future of Europe Transatlantic relations

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    Europe out Loud

    04 Nov 2021

  • Eleftheria Katsi Future of Europe Youth

    Thinking Talks Ep.1 with Kevin Maas

    Multimedia - Thinking Talks

    08 Oct 2021

  • The State of the Union Address remains the most important annual statement by the European Commission. Yet, despite being broadcast on all the national television stations of Europe, it fails to generate the same level of enthusiasm (and newspaper column inches) as its equivalent speeches in the United States and Russia.

    Its theme – “Strengthening the soul of our Union” – is reminiscent of the nation-building rhetoric popular in the mid-19th century. Ursula von der Leyen identifies shared common values such as democracy, the rule of law, the safeguarding of the free and independent media, and the right to live in a society free from corruption. She draws parallels between past and present.

    She cites Robert Schuman’s vision of a European “soul”, “ideal”, and “political will to serve the ideal” and argues that this has been fulfilled in the bloc’s recent response to the pandemic. In other words, she presents the European Union not necessarily as something innovative and new, but as the embodiment of universal values which were always present in the continent.

    Such rhetoric makes for a fascinating academic analysis, yet it achieves little if not accompanied by tangible actions.

    Some initiatives are likely to generate some enthusiasm for Europe. Citing Jacques Delors, “How can we ever build Europe if young people do not see it as a collective project and a vision of their own future?”, von der Leyen announced the 2022 Year of European Youth.

    In addition, the Erasmus-style ALMA scheme will allow young people from member states of the EU to find short-term work placements in other EU member states. Its aim is twofold: providing some respite to unemployed youth and allowing young people to build a network of connections across the bloc. In other words, it aims to foster a greater feeling of being European.

    In this regard, the Conference on the Future of Europe also aims to encourage a deliberative and participative approach to Europe. Here, the President of the EU Commission took a more cautious approach. She expressed her hope that youths would lead the debate and committed the Commission to follow up on what the Conference agreed.

    It is doubtful that these measures will be enough, or whether they should be a priority given the current situation.

    The EU is emerging stronger from the pandemic. Despite some hitches at the onset of the pandemic, the vaccine rollout has been broadly successful. Moreover, the President of the EU Commission rightly recognised the geopolitical significance of vaccines, the necessity to cushion the economic fallout of the pandemic, and the need for solidarity within Europe. Indeed, the post-pandemic reconstruction can be a practical exercise in solidarity-building and, indirectly, in identifying this mythical “soul” of Europe.

    Nonetheless, the situation is both an uphill struggle and an opportunity that could easily go unexploited. According to the Spring 2021 Eurobarometer survey, 33% of respondents knew of the EU measures relating to the COVID-19 pandemic; 52% of those were not satisfied with the measures taken so far. More encouragingly, while 57% of respondents declared themselves unhappy with the current state of solidarity within the EU, 69% agreed that the EU requires more competencies to deal with crises such as the pandemic.

    There are other measures announced in this speech where consensus will be harder to achieve. For example, the much-touted Green Deal will involve considerable infrastructural investment and will undoubtedly lead to an increase in energy prices. Attempts to increase competencies in taxation issues will be vehemently opposed by some member states. Debates on the Future of Europe need to be broader and more realistic in their aims.

    Perhaps, what Europe needs at the moment is less “soul” and more realism. The debates about the future of Europe tend to be theoretical and abstract. Whether there is “more Europe” or “less Europe” may mean very little in situations of mass unemployment and higher energy prices. Moreover, though a focus on youth is appropriate, Europe has an ageing population that finds it harder to engage with the European project. Unless these debates are grounded in realism, they may serve to drive an even greater wedge between the European Union and its citizens.

    Image Credits: EPP Group

    André P. Debattista European Union Future of Europe Leadership

    André P. Debattista

    The Quest for a European ‘Soul’?


    05 Oct 2021

  • The Conference on the Future of Europe, which is happening at a time of significant geopolitical shifts, represents a unique opportunity to review our European Union’s priorities. By taking stock of the progress made so far, assessing where we currently stand, and determining what our next objectives are, we can make the right decisions for this all-important coming decade. But offering ideas about or goals is only half the battle; the Conference is also about reviewing the methods and tools of our policies. The most well-conceived and appropriate policies are only as successful as their implementation is effective.

    We are convinced that the EU should move forward towards a real, functional, determined, authentic federation of European nations. We believe our Union should be based and developed on a strict principle of subsidiarity, with a clear division of tasks to avoid confrontations stemming from lack of clarity. National capitals should retain primacy on cultural matters for instance, but the EU needs more power in the core areas of defence and foreign policy. This would ensure both EU institutions and Member States are respected. Strict subsidiarity, with clear responsibilities, would lead to more effective decision-making procedures and put the common European interest above national egoisms.

    It will also require respect for the values we share, as well as our traditions and our ‘way of life’. Chief among these values and traditions are democracy and freedom of thought and speech. Sure enough, the Conference can only be a success if we are able to freely and openly present and exchange ideas, with the wide participation of EU citizens and civil society. I am confident that we can achieve this by focusing on and truly listening to the needs and concerns of European citizens and involving them in the next steps, as we continue to build the European project. This is singular and truly great opportunity for us, the European citizenry, to come together and shape the EU.

    Share your voice, join the debate. Thinking together for the Future of Europe.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda European Union Future of Europe Leadership

    Share your voice, join the debate. Thinking together for the Future of Europe.

    Other News

    17 Sep 2021

  • 1. The Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) is expected to envision Europe’s future on a 20 to 30-year horizon. The years of various crises and the ongoing pandemic have shown that we need a more effective and rules-based European Union. Could such a Conference deliver effective results, extending beyond its mere intentions?

    Jan Krzysztof Bielecki, former Prime Minister of Poland: The Conference could deliver results well beyond its stated intentions if it addressed the most important challenges facing the European Union. I feel many in Poland would agree that the central issue for the EU is to overhaul the paradigm of the European project in response to fundamental changes taking place in the world. The old days, when Europe was focused on post-war reconciliation and gradual deepening of integration, followed by enlargement and re-unification of the continent at the start of this century, are gone. The rationale of the Coal and Steel Community is over. And it is not only over because Europe will most likely no longer be manufacturing coal or steel in the next 10-15 years. European integration, the Single Market, the euro, and now the milestone of common debt to rebuild Europe after COVID are the crown achievements of that “old” stage of the project. The EU was conceived to end centuries of war among its nations, which culminated in the horrors of the Second World War, replacing them with harmonious cooperation and the joint pursuit of prosperity for European citizens. By fulfilling this mission for 70 years, the EU is probably the most successful political project ever. Although certain tensions persist and local conflicts between member states of the EU still happen, I do not think that maintaining peace in Europe is the most critical issue. Similarly, even if we have some issues in member states with democracy, rule of law, and the independence of the judiciary, such internal problems are relatively less pronounced than they were in parts of Europe in the 1950s.

    What matters much more today, and will determine the future of Europe, is how to identify and address external challenges. Let me mention a few of them. The first is climate change and adapting to its impact on the social and economic performance of member states. America, under President Biden, is rising to this challenge with a speed and determination that we should emulate. The second challenge is the Chinese expansionist and revisionist policy, which is encouraging other authoritarian and bellicose nations, such as Russia and Turkey, to challenge the EU’s principles of a world order based on peace, human rights, and peaceful cooperation. Two remaining external challenges which will determine Europe’s future are the bloc’s ability to overcome the pandemic and deal with massive migration flux. Only if we realise and agree that the threats to the EU are mostly external will we be able to remodel our economic and defensive security.

    Lawrence Gonzi, former Prime Minister of Malta: Our European project is unfinished. The Conference on the Future of Europe is an opportunity for every one of us to help shape its next steps. The European Union was not designed to be a static entity, it has been and must keep evolving with the times. That is how Europe has weathered the storms we have lived through over the last decade. The financial, political, environmental, social, or health turbulence we have witnessed have all led to broad changes that have made our Union stronger. We know that the only way to get out of these situations is by common action and by using the lessons learned to strengthen our systems. We also know how important it is to listen – and that is largely what this exercise will entail.

    I share a number of critical analyses of the way the EU and its institutions sometimes operate – frustrating at times – but the bigger picture is always more important to consider.

    We do need a more effective, more flexible, Union – and our immediate challenge is to translate this to the health sector. What we did for Europe after the financial crisis needs to be replicated for health. We need to ensure our common security and foreign policy becomes more closely aligned and, most of all, we need to be able to respond quickly to our citizens’ concerns. We need to bring Europe closer to people and that is ultimately what this process is about.

    2. The audit of the functioning of the Union and the future of Europe is in the hands of EU citizens. They consider democracy, human rights, rule of law, but also the Union’s economic power as the greatest benefits of the EU, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey. Are these benefits sufficiently protected and resilient?

    Jan Krzysztof Bielecki: The benefits of democracy and rule of law are not adequately protected within the EU. Despite their status as core values, they are not enshrined in regulations and are, therefore, taken for granted. I would also add that internal and external forces are challenging European solidarity. In relation to external forces, an example would be the Belt and Road Initiative, a Chinese attempt to undermine EU integration. Nevertheless, pursuing bilateral ties with key European nations, rather than with the bloc, does not come as a novelty for Europe. It is a deadly game played by both the United States during the Trump Administration and Putin’s Russia.

    Therefore, Europe must develop its economic sovereignty. Becoming more resolute in defending the EU’s economic and social interests is an essential prerequisite to revitalise the European dream and win the renewed confidence of its citizens. We must think outside the box. In the next 20 years, Europe should be less open, less naïve, and guarded by a stronger regulatory framework managed by the European Commission and the member states.

    Level playing-field provisions must be protected, guaranteed and, if necessary, strongly defended. Europe is suffering from the economic pressure from China, where there is a new nationalist movement binding business and government together in an economic and ideological “War on the West.” If you add China’s rapid push to put arms in space, advancements in AI in order to control its citizens, and its threats of using military force against democratic Taiwan, it is clear Europe must be ready to take a robust stance alongside our American allies.

    A decade ago, the EU was dubbed the world’s primary “regulatory power”. Today, this is not enough because China has abandoned even the appearance of trying to play by such rules. Americans are responding by beefing up their “hard power” and taking sharp regulatory actions. In this battle between two global superpowers, Europe should quickly define how to protect its economic interests and assert its values. We must find our way.

    Lawrence Gonzi: It is positive that there is a convergence between what people consider to be the greatest benefits of the European Union and the values which our Union is built upon. The European Union is a strong economic bloc, but it is more than that. It is a guarantee that our values and way of life will be protected. It is a shared promise made to European citizens when their countries joined the bloc.

    What I have seen over the past years, to varying degrees, is a disconnect between what citizens expect from our EU and the tools that EU institutions have to meet those expectations. This is particularly the case with the institutions’ role in addressing deficiencies in the rule of law and democracy. We have our Article 7 procedure, which has proven perhaps less effective than we had envisaged. Soft measures like scoreboards or annual rule of law reports can be very useful, but when they fail to instigate sufficiently concrete results, then perhaps the time has come to look at our legislative armoury and react. When you look at media freedom for example, there is still insufficient EU-wide rules to protect journalists. When you look at our democracy protection toolbox, it is clear there are missing elements.

    On the other hand, the Union is more adapted to its economic prowess. This, again, was born out of crises – the 2008 financial crisis and the 2020 COVID pandemic led to better and more cooperation. I would like to see more of this in other areas too, and perhaps outside the immediate response to a crisis.

    3. Could you, as an EU citizen, share your biggest concern and biggest dream when it comes to the future of Europe? What would be your advice to overcome such a concern and, on the other hand, how to achieve such a dream?

    Jan Krzysztof Bielecki: My biggest concern assumes that the bigger a crisis is, bigger are the regressive forces and more serious is the nature of the backlash. Do we have resilience against that? I doubt it. The cohesion of the Union is at stake. It means that every crisis of the last decade, due to the regressive nature of the reaction to it, plays out better for the wealthy and powerful countries and worse for the poor and the weak. Therefore, I am concerned whether the successful transformation of Central and Eastern European countries is sustainable and whether their “catching-up” with the West will succeed. My fear is that the pressures of the new challenges could lead Europe towards a future where we will have first-, second-, or even third-class Europeans.

    The biggest hope when it comes to the future of Europe is the next generation, both of individuals and of leaders, who are now replacing baby boomers (like the boomers replaced the war generation), and who are obliged to address external and internal challenges. Watching some of them, I am impressed. I believe that even in the days of limitless technology, which will enable complete control of citizens in the next 10-15 years, they will stick to the dreams of the founding fathers of European integration, based on peace and fundamental liberties.

    Lawrence Gonzi: One of my most worrying concerns is our ability to push back against the populist anti-EU narrative that takes hold so easily and so quickly. It is a concern tied to our complacency and the ease to which things can be taken for granted. The last generation of politicians to have experienced the nightmare of war first-hand have passed on their baton – and we need to keep showing and reminding people that ultimately, Europe is the world’s greatest peace project. This is not as easy as it may read.

    It is on all of our shoulders to make our voices heard in defence of strong value-based politics, or we risk getting drowned out by populism and extremism. This could have far-reaching social, political, and economic consequences for us all.

    My hope would be to see a Europe that is stronger and that respects the diversity that makes it so unique. A Europe that can respond quickly to shifting geo-political landscapes; that understands that it must keep evolving.

    We are emerging into a time of opportunity to rebuild and recommit. We are facing serious and different challenges from those we faced in the past. We need to come together like never before.  

    Mikuláš Dzurinda EU Institutions European Union Future of Europe

    Can the Conference on the Future of Europe Deliver Results? Episode 4

    Other News

    25 May 2021

  • 1. The Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) is expected to envision Europe’s future on a 20 to 30-year horizon. The years of various crises and the ongoing pandemic have shown that we need a more effective and rules-based European Union. Could such a Conference deliver effective results, extending beyond its mere intentions? 

    Jyrki Katainen, Former Prime Minister of Finland: Every now and then it is worthwhile to stop and reflect on which direction we want to go in. The world has changed, teaching us in many ways since we last had a coordinated and comprehensive process to assess the future of Europe. We have reformed the EU a great deal, speeding up our response during economic crises for instance, but it is now time to take a holistic view on our future.

    The Conference on the Future of Europe is an opportunity for new generation of Europeans to have their say on the direction of Europe. Additionally, these kinds of processes are usually useful exercises to recall the reasons for an integrated Europe, assess its strengths and weaknesses, as well as identify priorities for its further development.

    It is obvious that we cannot foresee everything we are going to face in the future, but we can learn from the past and make ourselves stronger, more resilient, and more capable to act.

    Wolfgang Schüssel, Former Chancellor of Austria: A realistic view on the Conference of Europe does not let us expect a major breakthrough, like the 2002-03 European Convention delivering a blueprint for far-reaching Treaty change. President Macron envisages to reach a result around the next French Presidential elections in 2022, a rather ambitious timetable. But despite these restrictions we can and should expect some serious achievements: an extended role of the European Institutions in fighting a pandemic crisis, and improving public health and producing vaccines; a courageous step forward in protecting our external borders; auditing and monitoring an effective use of huge EU recovery funds; achieving and keeping “Weltpolitikfähigkeit” (copyright Jean-Claude Juncker), a global presence and Union voice in CFS policy areas should be our main priority – meaning minimising unanimity voting. Finally, a network of “Wider Europe” (EU members, applicants, EEA, UK, Switzerland, Israel, and perhaps Russia, Ukraine and the Commonwealth of Independent States) would, in 2050, show us on equal economic terms with China and far ahead of the United States.

    2.The audit of the functioning of the Union and the future of Europe is in the hands of EU citizens. They consider democracy, human rights, rule of law, but also the Union’s economic power as the greatest benefits of the EU, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey. Are these benefits sufficiently protected and resilient? 

    Jyrki Katainen: Fundamental values are strong in the EU, but it must be said honestly that these values have been severely challenged by some member states during the last few years. This is obviously a challenge to the entire EU. Rule of Law is the basis for everything we do in the integrated Europe. Human dignity, civil rights and transparent administration on one hand, a free judiciary and media on the other form the basis on which we have developed the whole European way of living. Important achievements such as the Single Market, innovation policy and free movement of people, capital, and goods are based on these values.

    The EU is an economic superpower, which brings welfare to its citizens and business opportunities to its companies. Economic strength also gives us a strong hand in trade negotiations as well as in setting standards and regulations for commercial activities. Our standards often become global. The global economy will be shaped by two major drivers in the coming years. The need to de-couple economic growth from CO2 emissions, biodiversity loss, and over-consumption of natural resources is one of the major challenges, which needs a new type of economic thought. The market economy is still the basis on which the new economic model needs to be built. The market economy needs new incentives, rules, and values. Here, European regulatory power and its role as a strong trading bloc both play a significant role.

    Another disruptive force and a driver of economic growth will be the rise of the data economy. Currently, we live in a world where usage of data is based on practices and rules created by forerunning technology companies, which suits their own business models well. As the amount of data and use of data is rapidly increasing, it is necessary to create an ethically sound and fair basis for it. In other words, we need a rulebook and incentives to use data securely and fairly. Here again, the EU can be a forerunner and show the way for a new competitive and fair data economy.

    Wolfgang Schüssel: The EU will always be among the top 3 global leading entities – be it economically, politically, in life quality – as a regulatory power. The Union is unique in its human rights record and quality of democracy and rule of law. We, the member states, are certainly not perfect; but a bit more pride and less self-accusation would be appropriate. We are still a leading trade bloc; a completion of the Single Market will be the most effective growth and innovation engine. The creation of a common digital area and an EU cloud is necessary. Finding a functioning global balance between productive climate protection and the competitiveness of our European industry and economy is the major challenge for the foreseeable future.

    3.Could you, as an EU citizen, share your biggest concern and biggest dream when it comes to the future of Europe? What would be your advice to overcome such a concern and, on the other hand, how to achieve such a dream? 

    Jyrki Katainen: The biggest concern pertains to security challenges. Traditional security threats connected to cyber and hybrid threats form an entity which has become a more important issue to the future of Europe than before. Also, new technology and technological infrastructure can bring new challenges to European autonomy. Risks may appear, for example from excessive dependence on one technological solution which excludes the opportunity to change the service provider, thus strengthening monopolistic development.

    The ultimate dream is an EU that is a borderless, innovative, secure, and competitive Union of values which is a source of wellbeing. In this kind of Europe, the whole continent would offer unlimited opportunities to work, live, study, do business, and innovate, wherever each of us wants.

    To address concerns and achieve our dreams, we need to keep our value basis strong. We also need to deepen and widen the integration in the areas where integration does not yet function well but where it would bring benefits. We need to pay attention to new policy areas which are relevant for our future such as the data economy, the circular economy, and security. Finally, we must keep our public financing in good shape, because it is a way to secure welfare services for our citizens. In this, all the member states must do their homework. Irresponsible fiscal policy in one country cannot cause problems to others, because it would weaken the sense of unity and fairness.

    Wolfgang Schüssel: My biggest concern is to be sidelined in the ongoing struggle for supremacy between the US and China. My dream: to create a unique model – balancing subsidiarity and national/regional identity on one side with EU efficiency and the capacity to act where members are unable to handle situations alone. The main task for the Conference on the Future of Europe is to raise public awareness of the EU’s goals, priorities, and challenges, and to encourage citizens to participate in these debates. This Conference is a unique chance for such a far and deep-reaching discussion. Let me finally repeat an old idea – a better placed European Day. Not 9 May, which is always competing with the end of the Second World War and the liberation of the concentration camps. A better option would be 25 March, commemorating the signing of the European Treaty of Rome in 1957. This day should be celebrated all over Europe, in schools, public broadcasting and TV stations, Parliaments, and everywhere else.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda EU Institutions European Union Future of Europe

    Can the Conference on the Future of Europe Deliver Results? Episode 3

    Other News

    18 May 2021

  • 1.       The Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) is expected to envision Europe’s future on a 20 to 30-year horizon. The years of various crises and the ongoing pandemic have shown that we need a more effective and rules-based European Union. Could this Conference deliver effective results, extending beyond its mere intentions? 

    John Bruton, former Prime Minister of Ireland: The attempt to envision Europe’s future over such a long timeframe is very ambitious. The Conference will presumably draw on published materials and discuss the political consequences of the projections. This will be a useful exercise in public education, but it is unlikely that the Conference, given its diversity, will be able to agree on anything concrete.

    It is important to develop a sense of European or EU patriotism, or loyalty to the ideals that underlie the EU idea. Democratic participation is the best way to build such loyalty. I hope the Conference can do this.

    I have some doubts about how the Conference might develop, based on my experience of the Convention on the Future of Europe. There, the priorities of the organised participants were the enhancement of the relative power of their particular institution within the EU structure, rather than the enhancement of EU-wide democracy as such.

    For example, the idea of the direct election by the people of the Commission President, although mentioned in the mandate of the Convention, got little or no serious consideration. I assume that this was because a directly elected President would have diminished the relative power of the European Council and the European Parliament. The idea of an EU-wide election of some MEPs was not considered at all.

    Andrius Kubilius, former Prime Minister of Lithuania: The EU is a very specific and very successful organisation, which grows, develops, and becomes increasingly consolidated as it moves from one crisis to another, starting from its earliest stage, the Rome Treaty. “Europe will be forged in crises” was a prediction by Jean Monnet, one of the European Union’s founding fathers, “and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises.” The global financial crisis of 2008-2012 pushed the EU to create a real banking union, the refugee crisis of 2015 inspired the creation of Frontex, the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout resulted in the unique financial instrument of the Recovery Fund, with new instruments for “mutual EU debt”.

    It is impossible to predict what kind of new crises the EU will face in the coming decades, but the EU should not be afraid to meet all those new challenges. The EU should not be afraid either to come out from each crisis having become more consolidated and more “federal”. This is a natural way of EU development and the Conference on the Future of Europe should praise such a perspective.

    The Conference on the Future of Europe should provide the answer to the biggest challenge of the future: how to prepare the EU for the next potential enlargement, since enlargement is the most important strategy to maintain peace and stability on the European continent. For that reason, there is a clear need for a structural change of decision-making procedures, moving onto a more democratic path, based on a majority voting principle.

    Herman Van Rompuy, President Emeritus of the European Council, former Prime Minister of Belgium:  The Conference started in great ambiguity, both in terms of its leadership and its purpose. It should avoid solely listening to citizens’ concerns and questions. That is certainly necessary, but at the same time, it must also provide leadership regarding the substantive direction that the Union must take in the coming decades. A combination of bottom-up and top-down, of politics and policies. What are our priorities? The pandemic has taught us to cast taboos aside, such as the purely budgetary obsession, to see public goods like health, climate, and education as indispensable, to avoid Europe being too dependent on foreign countries and foreign companies in many areas, including the digital world. In all these areas, ‘more Europe’ is needed, not less. The pandemic is a wake-up call.

    2.       The audit of the functioning of the Union and the future of Europe is in the hands of EU citizens. They consider democracy, human rights, rule of law, but also the Union’s economic power as the greatest benefits of the EU, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey. Are these benefits sufficiently protected and resilient? 

    John Bruton: The issues around rule of law and democracy in Poland and Hungary are unresolved, so the answer to this question, at this stage, has to be “no”. Unfortunately, citizens are not always wise in their choices and can elect people who are not truly democratic. The basic test here is willingness to accept defeat when one has lost an election. Rule of law is fundamental; without it there can be no democracy. It requires an independent and brave judiciary. “Human rights”, on the other hand, mean different things to different people.

    For example, is there an agreed definition of the term “human”?  Is a living baby, as yet unborn, “human”? And if so, does it have a right to life, and if not, how would one describe it and does it have any rights of its own? 

    Does the existence of human rights imply concomitant human responsibilities, and if so what are they? Against whom should human rights be exercisable? The state? One’s family? The European Union? These are profound philosophical questions. I hope the Conference will address them honestly and humbly, because there are no easy answers.

    Andrius Kubilius: Democracy is facing two major challenges, both globally and within the EU: the first is erosion of democracy by populism in established democracies; the other is tectonic shifts inside the fundaments of a traditional democracy. Shifts are taking place in a modern post-industrial society, which is distinctly different from an industrial society when the rules of “traditional democracy” were established. Those two challenges are common for democracies on both sides of the Atlantic, in the “old Europe” and in the “new Europe”. On top of that, there is also a clear external global challenge: democracies need to prove that they are more effective than autocracies such as China, Russia, Belarus, or Iran.

    Democracy in the 21st century will need to “reinvent itself”, and the EU needs to be ready for this exercise. The EU can become more democratic if the decision-making process of EU institutions will become more democratic, more transparent, and more understandable. This can be achieved only with an evolutional shift towards a traditional “majority voting” in the decision-making system of the EU.

    Also, trust towards the EU is suffering. This happens because of the widening gap between peoples’ expectations from the EU and the very small resources that the EU possesses in order to deliver on these expectations. The Conference on the Future of Europe needs to agree on a 2% of GDP EU budget, instead of the current 1%. For EU Member States, their European financial obligations should be no less important than the obligations to NATO financial standards. The Recovery Fund is a good first step in that direction.

    Herman Van Rompuy: Many citizens feel inadequately protected by leaders active on all levels of governance, against all sorts of threats. They feel insufficiently protected against unemployment, employment precarity, irregular migration, climate change, terrorism, inequalities, corruption, pandemics, foreign invasions, fraud, financial instability, cyber-attacks, and more. Simultaneously, many are not sufficiently empowered to survive in a harsh, competitive world. Education is one means to palliate this. The EU must contribute to this protection within its current and future competences. Citizens demand results from policies. They want a democracy that delivers. At the same time, they want more control over the very distant European decision-making process. Citizens are alienated from policymakers at all levels of government, including the European level.  How to get citizens more involved with more impact and more grip?  If there is too little pressure from below, the bureaucratic, party-political, or institutional logic (the rivalry between Commission, Council, and Parliament) prevails. How to make all this concrete? That is what the Conference should be about.

    3.       Could you, as an EU citizen, share your biggest concern and biggest dream when it comes to the future of Europe? What would be your advice to overcome such a concern and, on the other hand, how to achieve such a dream? 

    John Bruton: Generally, I believe we make progress by small steps. Big dreams are to be avoided because they can often be a prelude to totalitarianism or populism.

    My biggest concern is the preservation of peace in Europe and the world. The institutions that help us preserve relative peace in our time are inherently fragile, and contingent on prudent leadership based on popular consent. This work will never end.

    Andrius Kubilius: My biggest concern is very simple – after 76 years of peace on the European continent, how long can this peace be sustained for? The EU was created as a project that enables peace in “old Europe”, stabilises democracies, and enlarges the area of that democratic stability. NATO was established as a project that defends the peace. Both those mega-projects where the products of visionary transatlantic leaders. And both projects were very successful in bringing and maintaining peace on the European continent.

    The only real threat to peace on the European continent comes from the authoritarian regime in Moscow. The only way to get rid of that threat is to assist the Russian people in their efforts to transform their country into a European-style democracy. Democracies are not fighting each other. Democracy in Russia is possible in the same way as it is possible in Ukraine or Belarus.

    Ukraine’s success in reforming itself into successful European democracy can become the strongest inspiration for the Russian people to follow the same path. Ukraine’s success can be realised only if its integration project towards the EU becomes ambitious on both sides – Ukraine and the EU.

    EU enlargement and the European integration of Ukraine and of other Eastern Partnership countries is the only EU geopolitical strategy on how to transform the entire Eastern part of the European continent (including Russia) into a democratic and peaceful region. This is the only way peace in Europe can continue for at least another 75 years. And that is why this is of the same strategic importance as the creation of the EU or NATO after the Second World War.

    This is also my biggest personal dream – I hope that in my lifetime, I will be able to see Ukraine become a member of the EU and Russia transform itself into a democracy. It will mean that my children and grandchildren will be able to live in a peaceful neighbourhood.

    Herman Van Rompuy: My greatest concern is that the citizens of our nations let themselves be seduced by real or disguised extremists who undermine the Union and the solidarity it needs. Moreover, populism is not supportive of democracy. We shouldn’t fall into the Trump-trap: politicising everything. When everything becomes political, that’s the end of politics. That is why it is vital for policies to produce results in priority areas for many citizens, and for those same citizens to become more involved in those policies: an ‘input and output democracy’. How to bring the methods and the spirit of local government where alienation is less, to the higher level, including the European one?  A continent like ours that is dominated by fear and uncertainty cannot play a geopolitical role. External clout depends on internal stability and strength.

    Mikuláš Dzurinda EU Institutions European Union Future of Europe

    Can the Conference on the Future of Europe Deliver Results? Episode 2

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    10 May 2021

  • 1.       The Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) is expected to envision Europe’s future on a 20 to 30-year horizon. The years of various crises and the ongoing pandemic have shown that we need a more effective and rules-based European Union. Could this Conference deliver effective results, extending beyond its mere intentions? 

    José María Aznar, former Prime Minister of Spain: The Conference on the Future of Europe has to show that the future is Europe. The objectives of the Conference are very worthwhile and necessary, but its results will remain in the realm of mere management if the political will necessary for the substantive reform that is essential for our future does not emerge. For the Conference to deliver effective results, it must first build the political will to succeed in advance.

    The future of Europe depends on our ability to build a common sensibility as Europeans, a difficult but not impossible task, and on the Union’s response to the  major challenges it faces: 1) economic downturn, a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic; 2)  the structural challenges provoked by Brexit; 3) the ideological challenge provoked by populist and authoritarian movements within many member states; 4) the institutional challenge, the intra- institutional relationship between the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the European Council.

    One of the consequences of the most recent European Elections is the disappearance of the great coalition between the Social Democrats and the European People’s Party, which was, until now, the basis for European institutions. The European Parliament might have a weaker and less proactive institutional role, as it faces fresh difficulties in building up majorities. We are moving towards a more intergovernmental Europe. The CoFoE must re-think the role of Parliament and the Commission, because the decision-making centre will be in the Council and in the capitals of the member states.

    Jan Peter Balkenende, former Prime Minister of The Netherlands: The start of the CoFoE was not convincing. It took a long time to get started and there was endless squabbling over who should hold the Presidency. It is therefore a bad start and it is necessary to quickly strengthen the credibility of this initiative. There is also every reason to do so. If the corona crisis, climate change, geopolitical power shifts, the migration issue, the security situation, and competitive relations show one thing, it is that the future of Europe and the European Union within it depends on a vision of said future, joining forces and fostering unity. The biggest mistake Europe can make is to wait, to be at the mercy of geopolitical struggles elsewhere and a lack of dynamism, both internal and external.

    If the Conference is to become meaningful, a detailed analysis must be made of where Europe now stands, a renewed common perspective for the future must be offered, and a programme proposal must be developed with concrete actions. The Conference should inspire, through a European ideal based on European values. What drives us as Europeans and what kind of world do we want for generations to come? The Conference must innovate by providing new insights and ideas that will give impetus to practical steps to move Europe forward. Which concrete actions are necessary? The Conference must challenge implementation by means of clear step-by-step plans. What are we going to do in concrete terms? Intentions have no meaning without actions and implementation. The success of the Conference will depend on the realisation of inspiration, innovation and implementation.

    Antonis Samaras, Former Prime Minister of Greece: A political entity – a state or a Union – can only survive if it has clearly defined rules and clearly defined priorities. Both rules and (political) priorities jointly define who we are, our unity, and our character. We cannot have rules without priorities, and we cannot have priorities, without rules. We need both.  As reality evolves within our societies and around us, our priorities change, and our set of rules should accommodate this evolution. If our set of rules is too stringent or “inflexible”, we will not evolve. On the other hand, if our rules are very “lax”, there is a chance that we will might evolve towards different “paths”, or disintegrate. So, we need to promptly adjust both our rules and our priorities. We must also make them mutually compatible. Unfortunately, the way we handled the pandemic crisis was not very “flattering” for the way our rules operate in the face of such challenges. The way we handled the influx of illegal immigrants, or Turkey, or Ukraine, does not flatter our geopolitical priorities. We have a lot to learn from our current problems, a lot of reflection to do regarding our perspectives, and a lot of restructuring must take place in our internal framework…

    2.       The audit of the functioning of the Union and the future of Europe is in the hands of EU citizens. They consider democracy, human rights, rule of law, but also the Union’s economic power as the greatest benefits of the EU, according to the latest Eurobarometer survey. Are these benefits sufficiently protected and resilient? 

    José María Aznar: These benefits are sufficiently protected and resilient because the EU is first and foremost a normative power. The EU’s economic power is enormous. Today, the European Single Market is the largest barrier-free economic area in the world, encompassing more than 500 million citizens with a gross domestic product (GDP) of around 13 trillion euros. Since its creation, the EU has been, for its member states, the main basis for peace, security, and prosperity. In this sense, the EU is a success story. That is why, for many years, we took the European project for granted. We convinced ourselves that the successful integration of European nations could not be reversed because it was, in fact, responsible for our development and our greatest achievements.  And so, it was. But it must be underlined that the benefits that the EU has created for its member states are under attack from within and from outside, and its resistance must be solidified.

    The credibility of the democratic and representative process of the institutions of European societies has eroded, as well as their ability to generate prosperity and create opportunities. Populist parties have capitalised on the political and electoral effects of it. Now, the enemies of the liberal order are stronger than in the past because they are joining forces against us. Perhaps not all populist movements are the same, and maybe there are some differences between nationalists and separatists in different countries. But they agree in their hatred against the EU because it is the most successful integration process and the best example of what liberal democracy, social economy, free trade, and globalisation can achieve if they are effectively supported by political reforms.

    Jan Peter Balkenende: Europe has brought a lot to its citizens: peace, human rights, democracy, prosperity, solidarity, equal treatment, food security, economic unification, legal certainty. Tremendous achievements that are sometimes better perceived by people outside the European Union than by those who are part of Europe. In addition to these achievements, it must also be noted that there are concerns: the Stability and Growth Pact was not sufficiently complied with, concerns about the lack of the rule of law are increasing in several countries, there are concerns about the functioning of democratic institutions, the need for reforms is interpreted differently, and solidarity between countries appears to be unruly. The CoFoE can strengthen the credibility of the European project by thoroughly discussing the critical points and making proposals for reinforcement. Where human rights and democracy are being tormented worldwide, Europe must take criticism of its own functioning seriously and work towards improvement, by hearing the voices of citizens, by tackling errors in a credible way and by always keeping an eye on achieving results. With this the European project can be made resilient.

    Antonis Samaras: Yes, these are the cornerstones that define our collective culture, who we are, how we have evolved through history and where we are going. And no, we should not take them for granted! Because they run the risk of being eroded, by groups of the authoritarian alt-right who undermine democracy, or by the “politically correct” extreme left, who undermine social cohesion. We need a “new growth agenda”, to improve competitiveness through restructuring; we need a new “progressive agenda” to maintain democracy through growth; and we also need a “new conservative agenda”, to maintain social cohesion through change. We definitely need new geopolitical priorities, vast domestic reforms, and protection of economic prospects for our middle classes. Europe will never inspire its citizens at home, unless it gains international respect beyond its borders. The European project can either shine or shrink! So, let’s make it shine again. As it deserves…

    3.       Could you, as an EU citizen, share your biggest concern and biggest dream when it comes to the future of Europe? What would be your advice to overcome such a concern and, on the other hand, how to achieve such a dream? 

    José María Aznar: As an EU citizen, I am concerned about the political, social, and economic consequences of the pandemic caused by COVID-19, on which Europe’s immediate future and its resilience depends. In the longer term, I am concerned about the European Union’s place in the world. The international liberal order is changing due to the pandemic and to other internal challenges such as authoritarianism, neo-totalitarianism, illiberal democracies, populism, the rise of revisionist powers, etc. The EU, in order to occupy an important place in the world, must strengthen its ties with the US and the transatlantic relationship; this is not a dream, but a historical fact and experience.

    I believe that the history of the EU is a great success story. European success cannot be explained without the success of the Atlantic policy, it cannot be explained without the Atlantic relationship, and it cannot be explained without our American friends and allies. The Atlantic pact is more than a military pact, it is also a political, cultural, or historical commitment to act together, the United States, Europe, and our other allies. It is not just a geographical concept, it is a pact based on values which have underpinned the greatest expansion of freedom, prosperity, and democracy in the history of the world. Therefore, presenting these values and preserving what these Atlantic values mean seems to me to be a crucial task, to achieve an important EU role in the international liberal order and turn Europe into our common future.

    Jan Peter Balkenende: My main concern is that Europe is losing opportunities for the future due to a lack of urgency, internal division, allowing things to run their course without tackling them, too little regard for the common interest, and too much regard for purely national interests. This danger affects all areas: economy, security, migration, environment. However, Europe has shown at crucial times that new perspectives could be developed through cooperation. That is also possible now! My biggest dream is for Europe to become a world-class player by taking the lead in building a better world. The global agenda is embedded in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, tackling the climate issue, building a circular economy, and tackling inequality. That agenda offers hope for the future. European values, the concept of a social and environmental market economy and Rhineland thinking can be a source of inspiration in taking that lead. We must work with inspiration and passion on a new European ideal!

    Antonis Samaras: My biggest concern is that Europe might become “irrelevant” vis-aa-vis the rest of the world, from a geopolitical perspective. Or “irrelevant” to its own citizens, from a growth and domestic prosperity perspective. My biggest hope is that we will eventually break away from present-day deadlocks and re-inspire our citizens. We need a new policy to build new infrastructure and handle debt. We need a new policy for our middle classes to adjust to the looming Fourth Industrial Revolution. We need a new policy for energy sufficiency and energy supply safety for the coming decades. We need a new policy for illegal immigrants and internal security. We need a policy for defending our common European borders. We need to understand that unity and integration within Europe cannot proceed without controlling our limits and expanding our influence beyond our limits! If we lose control on our hinterland, we will fracture and dissolve. We need a new policy for projecting our security priorities abroad. We need to show that the European project is a shining paradigm, generating freedom, growth, and prosperity for the European peoples – and hope for its allies… We need a new social pact with our citizens and a new credibility pact with our allies abroad. The European project has come a long way so far. And it has a long way to go, in the future. We must reshape it and re-launch it! And we have to do it fast. 

    Mikuláš Dzurinda EU Institutions European Union Future of Europe

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  • Do you expect the Conference on the Future of Europe to be a real turning point for democratic participation in the EU? Or will it rather be a modest consultation exercise that will not fundamentally change citizens’ relationship with the Union?  

    Alexander Stubb, Director of the School of Transnational Governance, European University Institute, Former Prime Minister of Finland : ‘I think it too early to say. This could potentially be one of those ‘low expectations, high outcome’-events. A bit of an opposite to the Constitutional Convention in early 2000, which kicked off with fanfare, but hit the wall in a couple of referenda. I hope there is grassroots engagement, but time will tell. The key will be the use of modern technology and ‘sexy’ platforms, which would make engagement interesting and meaningful. Fake participation won’t fly.’ 

    John Bruton, Member of the Martens Centre Honorary Board, Former Prime Minister of Ireland : ‘It is difficult to say. My experience of the last Convention is that inter-institutional rivalries and ambitions take precedence over enhanced democratic participation. In the Convention, I put forward a proposal for the election of the President of the Commission by the EU electorate (while leaving the rest of the Commission to be appointed under the existing system). This proposal got no support, I suspect, because all the EU institutions, including the Parliament, felt it would diminish their influence.’

    Many important actors remain convinced that the so-called ‘Spitzenkandidaten’ system is the best way to select the next President of the European Commission in 2024, despite its failure to deliver in 2019. Do you agree with them? If so, how would you change the system to make sure it proves workable next time?

    Alexander Stubb: ‘Having participated in the race the last time around, I am naturally a supporter of the system. At the same time, I will be the first to admit that we are a far cry from US-style primaries or presidential elections. I guess we just have to be honest and say that our system is a hybrid. As a former Prime Minister, I understand why heads of state and government in the European Council are reluctant to delegate the power of nomination to a process which is essentially not in their control. At this stage, I do not have a suggestion on how to improve the system.’

    John Bruton: ‘I think the Spitzenkandidat proposal was an incoherent compromise. Why should the biggest group in the Parliament, which could have as little as 20% of all the seats, have the privilege of nominating the President of the Commission? That is not true democracy. As I said above, the President of the Commission should instead be directly elected by the people, but candidates eligible to go before EU electors ought to have been nominated by parties that have both at least 8% of all MEPs, and are also represented by more than 5% of the MPs in at least 10 national parliaments.’

    Transnational lists are seen by many as necessary to enhancing the European dimension of EU elections. Others, however, fear they will end up favouring candidates from big member states and increasing the distance between citizens and MEPs. Would you support their introduction? How should they function?

    Alexander Stubb: ‘To be frank, I am not a huge fan of transnational lists. I guess I should be, because of my pro-European, federalist instincts. I really don’t know why I am not too excited about them, perhaps because I come from a small state. Let me be a little provocative here. I think we should scrap lists in which national parties decide the order of the candidates. Go for real democracy, not party democracy. Go for real competition. This would essentially mean that candidates have to fight for public space, and yes publicity, not party favours. This change would make the EP elections more interesting than transnational lists.’

    John Bruton: ‘I am in favour of this proposal. But I doubt existing MEPs would accept it. I do not believe it will favour big states in practice.’

    Is there any other institutional innovation that you would consider necessary to strengthening democratic participation and legitimacy in the EU ahead of the 2024 European elections (e.g. providing for stronger European political parties, reinforcing the role of national parliaments, etc…)?

    Alexander Stubb: ‘We need to think outside the box here. Therefore, provocation number two: make e-voting possible across the board. I would love to see the first transnational, cross-continental elections in the world taking place in the EP elections. It would be the new 1979 moment, when direct elections became possible. And if I may, I am not sure European citizens are that keen on party structures, national or European. People vote for people, not parties. People vote on the basis of issues, not party affiliation. Sorry to be so blunt.’     

    John Bruton: ‘I have no other suggestions. The EU is a big institution with a big population so some distance between electorates and decision-makers is inevitable, and the only way I see to bridge the gap is the direct election of the President of the Commission. Maybe we should try it for one Parliamentary term as an experiment.’

    Federico Ottavio Reho EU Institutions European Union Future of Europe Leadership

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  • The EU is about to embark on two processes that seek to boost the Union’s ability to manage and solve some of the biggest challenges it is currently facing. These are the forthcoming Conference on the Future of Europe and the development of the new Strategic Compass. The Conference will tackle major societal challenges such as climate change and the economy and it will also involve civil society actors.

    The Strategic Compass, on the other hand, will focus more narrowly on security and defence issues to highlight common threats and challenges and to facilitate the emergence of a shared European strategic culture. However, the Conference will also tackle security-related topics such as the EU’s technological sovereignty and security of supply. This event will discuss what both the Conference and the development of the Strategic Compass mean for the future of the EU’s security and defence policy.

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    03 Dec 2020

  • EU leaders seem to have agreed, at least in principle, that an ambitious recovery plan financed by EU bonds should be introduced and that the EU should have more competencies in the area of health care. Do you think the COVID-19 crisis is rekindling some federalist ambitions in the EU?

    Lawrence Gonzi, Former Prime Minister of Malta:

    “Rather than European federalism, I prefer to look at this as a question of European solidarity in practice. It is the realisation that we are all in this together, and we can only get out of it together. The recovery plan is welcomed – it is the response to calls for Europe to do whatever it takes. There are issues being negotiated that still need to be defined, so while this is welcome in principle, we have to ensure that all Member States’ red lines on taxation and competitiveness, for example, are respected. But even with these outstanding issues, Europe is in a strong position, and there is a clear path for this recovery package to move forward. This is a unique opportunity to revitalise Europe’s economy, making it fairer, greener, and more sustainable for all of us. We should not waste it.”

    Andrius Kubilius, Former Prime Minister of Lithuania:

    “If by federalist ambition, we understand that some new European-wide instruments were created to fight the crisis, then we need to agree that since the Treaty of Rome, each crisis was pushing the European Community towards federalist ambition. Yet this is exactly what Jean Monet predicted: ‘Europe will be forged in crises, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises’.”

    Herman Van Rompuy, President Emeritus of the European Council, Former Prime Minister of Belgium:

    “I myself was not a big fan of the original plans for a Conference on the Future of Europe. I am in favour of it now, because this crisis has shown to citizens that ‘more Europe’ is needed. They found it strange that there were different kinds of politics in the Union regarding the virus, and they found it strange that borders were being closed and opened in a selective and dispersed manner. Many wondered where Europe was. They were unaware that the EU simply did not have competence for health. Europe is not a super-state! It also becomes clear that the EU is very dependent on medical supplies from abroad, especially China. We are already dependent on non-Europeans for digital platforms, energy, defence, and poorly protected external borders. Will we also be externally dependent for food tomorrow? The theme of European sovereignty has been raised; the conference could focus on this, instead of yet another institutional discussion that actually plays into the hands of anti-European forces. If one starts from the needs of the people, one can come up with pro-European decisions. The conference should not only question citizens, but there should also be leadership by formulating proposals and testing them with the public – a combination of top-down and bottom-up.”

    Wolfgang Schüssel, Former Chancellor of Austria:

    “The EU budget for the next seven years needs sufficient resources. The United Kingdom, an important contributor, has left. New challenges, like the prevention of pandemics, President von der Leyen’s ‘Green Deal’, the necessary protection of external borders, and funding an emerging common defence policy, underline the necessity for novel own resources for the Union. Let us add the intended recovery plan after the Corona crisis – and in this context, an open discussion without taboos about the size, use, control, and a repayment plan of such a huge programme is necessary. This may not be a federalist ambition but a better equilibrium of European and national competences.”

    Foreign policy and defence are essential areas for the EU’s future. Would you agree that the European Council should take decisions on the common EU foreign and security policy by majority vote and not by consensus? And do you see PESCO as the main instrument to move forward and strengthen the EU’s weight in the field of defence?

    Lawrence Gonzi: “On the issue of common defence, I think our strength comes from our collective action and common purpose. On the one hand, having consensus on these sensitive issues lends legitimacy to the process and ensures that no Member State feels railroaded into a decision that it is not comfortable with on a sensitive issue. On the other hand, consensus means that their discussions take longer, and we are less flexible in how the Union reacts. On balance, my preference is to retain consensus in defence matters. That means more work for our negotiators and more need for States to compromise – but that is the only way all our citizens will feel involved in the process.”

    Andrius Kubilius: “I agree that Foreign Policy and Defence in the EU are critically important policies. In my view, Foreign and Defence Policies in the EU should not be the only ones decided by majority voting. Other policies should be included, because that is the only way to make the EU truly democratic and effective. PESCO is an important instrument, but more importantly, the EU needs to have a clear strategy on security and defence issues – determining where the EU is going to rely on its ‘strategic autonomy’, and where it will rely on NATO (or US) capabilities.”

    Herman Van Rompuy: “Of course, I am in favour of more possibilities for qualified majority voting. It should also be discussed in the Conference on the Future of Europe. To make the idea more acceptable, one could imagine a softer formula in which the opposition of a minimal number of countries cannot block a decision. This could have avoided the recent problems in the Council. With regard to PESCO: we must make a success of this first in order to envisage the next step. The final objective must be a genuine military dimension of the Union.”

    Wolfgang Schüssel: “The European Union should extend Qualified Majority Voting (QMV) procedures to foreign policy areas. In the future, sensitive decisions regarding China’s policy and ambitions, but also Israel’s prospective annexation plans of the West Bank, will require clear EU statements. Defence policy is probably too underdeveloped for QMV voting and needs, for the foreseeable future, consensual decisions.”

    Despite initial success in 2014, the Spitzenkandidaten procedure to elect the Commission President failed in 2019. How can it be reformed? And what other measures could help bring the EU closer to citizens?

    Lawrence Gonzi: “I am a fan of the Spitzenkandidaten process, and I think it is a pity that it was not fully respected in 2019 – but I do not think that it is dead in the water. I would move to codify the process and therefore give increased legitimacy and certainty to the European Commission President and the entire image of our European Union.”

    Andrius Kubilius: “In an effort to bring the EU closer to its citizens, the role of the European Parliament should be strengthened with the power to initiate legislation, the power of parliamentary oversight of the executive branch, and the power of non-confidence towards individual Commissioners. This would make the entire EU architecture more democratic. The Spitzenkandidaten system was designed to make the whole process less dependent on a consensus in the Council. There are also other ways to overcome this problem: for example, deciding by majority vote in the Council when making a decision on the candidate for Commission President.”

    Herman Van Rompuy: “I’ve never been a supporter of the Spitzenkandidaten procedure. It hasn’t brought the Union any closer to its citizens, and instead organised a pointless power struggle between the EU institutions. I would invest much more energy into the idea of a European constituency. Unfortunately, that concept quickly found its way into the inter-party political battle. It deserves a second chance.”

    Wolfgang Schüssel: “The text of the treaty is quite clear: the European Council makes a proposal, taking into account the results of the EP Election, followed by an affirmative EP vote, which is necessary. Politicising and personalising the election, and as a result the European Commission, is, in my opinion, a disputable option. It is better to put the substance of European policy at the core of the election and the alternative party programs.”

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    25 Jun 2020

  • Europe is never complete. That is a hugely inspiring idea, particularly for a young generation of Europeans. Previous generations have endowed Europe with a rich heritage of traditions, cultures, diversity, and pluralism. And because of the endless diversity that characterises Europe, the European project is always a work in progress. No one will ever be able to ‘call it a day’ and declare Europe as a finished phenomenon.

    The energy generated by this duality of rich history and challenging perspective has given rise to this book. As young Christian Democrats in the Netherlands, we found it most inspiring to engage with our contemporaries in political positions in the EPP family1 — to allow them to have their say and to enter into a dialogue with them. This collection, encompassing dialogue and vision, is the result of this engagement, which in a time of Covid-19 took the form of digital meetings and discussions. The structure of the book shows — we do hope — how fascinating and substantive the conversations were. The book is neither a literal account nor a summary and digest of each individual interview, but rather a composition of content from these multinational and multicultural dialogues on themes relevant to European Christian Democrats and members of the EPP.

    Centre-Right Future of Europe Youth

    Seeing Europe anew: Young politicians and the future of Europe


    15 Dec 2021

  • It is necessary to accept the fact that there is a new political reality in the European Union and a pragmatic approach should be applied. The future of the European Union depends on an adequate response to the realities of the 21st century and on the ambitions how to move integration forward. Overcoming contradictions, disputes and differences on specific issues and challenges posed by the real life can only be achieved by a strong motivation to build a genuine union. In this sense, the future of the European Union depends on several basic preconditions, expressed in the ability to develop the economy of knowledge, to meet the challenges of energy dependence and population aging, the ability to compete on the global market, the ability to be flexible in order to find the right combination of active labour market policy, flexibility, effective training and social protection; the ability to strike the right balance between openness and protection, the ability to think big, not only in a European but also in a global dimension. We need to strengthen the Union, having a fresh look and new approach.

    Education Enlargement Future of Europe Neighbourhood Policy

    The Call for More Europe: Ambitions and Realities


    01 Dec 2021

  • The issues of subsidiarity and member state autonomy in asylum and migration policymaking have been present in the background of the political and legal conflicts among the EU member states. This paper demonstrates that treaty provisions on subsidiarity have been ineffective as safeguards of member state autonomy on immigration and asylum.

    Nevertheless, the treaties do endow the members with expansive autonomy in this policy area. The paper argues that this autonomy manifests itself in two different regimes that govern decision-making: intergovernmentalism and supranational consociationalism. Outside the scope of the treaties, inter-governmentalism has been effective in preventing irregular migration movements from outside the EU territory. Within the framework of the Lisbon Treaty, member states developed supranational consociationalism, an ultra-consensual decision-making regime that was first introduced in deeply divided societies. Applying this method in the EU context, the national elites have bypassed majority voting on asylum in the Council and resorted to consensus on ‘sensitive’ matters, where it is the governments affected that decide whether a given issue is sensitive.

    This paper argues that the current combination of intergovernmentalism and consociational arrangements should be maintained as it upholds political peace between the members. Nevertheless, given the ongoing problems with the rule of law in the area of immigration and asylum, the European Commission should limit member states’ non-compliance with the existing legislation.

    European Union Future of Europe Migration Subsidiarity

    A Brussels-Based Dictatorship or a Paradise of Subsidiarity? National Prerogatives and EU Migration Policy

    Future of Europe

    08 Sep 2021

  • Initially planned for 2020, the launch of the Conference on the Future of Europe has been postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. Scheduled to run for two years, this conference will bring together Europeans institutions, civil society representatives, and citizens of all ages to debate on the future of Europe. Thus, this conference has the great merit of facing the issue of citizen participation, confirming the constant desire of strengthening European democracy. Similarly to the European Convention on the Future of Europe, this conference would also include citizen consultations, supported by a digital platform allowing online debates and contributions.

    Although it is difficult to predict the concrete outcome of this conference, major changes are not expected, but rather more reform proposals on the EU’s architecture and its decision-making processes, which will lead to deeper European integration. However, before the conference can start, the three main EU institutions must still agree on its modalities and, importantly, its chairmanship. It clearly reveals that the main difficulties barring the road to the conference are not of a technical nature, but rather political.

    Nonetheless, launching the conference as soon as possible would be a tangible, major achievement, confirming that democracy is still fully functional in Europe, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. It would confirm the European Union as an advanced democracy, and probably the biggest democracy in the world.

    Democracy EU Institutions Future of Europe Leadership Society

    The Potential Outcome of the Conference on the Future of Europe in a COVID-19 World: Strengthening European Democracy


    23 Dec 2020

  • As the debate on European sovereignty has gained traction in recent years, Europe’s centre-right should develop its own distinct vision of European sovereignty, one that reflects its own priorities and values.

    This policy brief aims to develop a tentative theoretical and historical framework that can be used to work out what this conservative and Christian Democratic vision could look like. It argues that it is important for the centre-right to ensure that its vision stands apart from those of both the nationalist populists on its right and social-liberals on its left. Against populists the centre-right needs to show that conservatism and European integration can be compatible. As the historical overview in the paper shows, conservatives throughout history have supported processes of political and economic centralisation as long as these have taken place in piecemeal fashion and the resulting institutions have reproduced in their conduct and outlook the values conservatives stand for. Against the centralisers on the centre-left, who are currently monopolising the slogan ‘more Europe’, the centre-right must articulate more clearly how its own understanding of EU integration is a more pragmatic, effective and viable way forward. Contrary to progressives, who view European and international institutions as instruments of ideologically-driven social change, European conservatives see institutions as expressions and safeguards both of diversity inside the EU and of the distinctly European imprint on world politics externally.

    The paper offers a first outline of how a conservative perspective on EU sovereignty could be applied to a range of policy areas, from foreign policy to economic governance to migration.

    Centre-Right EU Institutions EU Member States Future of Europe Integration

    Towards a Sovereign Europe – A Centre-Right Approach

    Policy Briefs

    09 Jul 2020

  • A decade after the crisis that came close to destroying it, the Eurozone remains fragile. Fiscal indiscipline, a key cause of the crisis, remains a relevant issue. Progress has been made to make the banking system safer, but much more is required to contain risk. Eurozone governance remains weak. This paper argues that six key steps are required to refashion the Eurozone into a robust monetary union capable of dealing with unexpected shocks in the future. These steps are:

    • Subsidiarity should be rigorously applied to straighten the existing muddled governance structures
    • Banking Union needs to be completed to break the doom loop between banks and governments
    • Pan-European banks and fully integrated financial markets offer the best solution to absorb national disturbances. Implicit protectionism – through regulations and support for national champions – should not be accepted
    • The responsibility for fiscal discipline must lie where the budget authority is exercised: at the national level
    • The no-bailout clause is the best protection against fiscal indiscipline. It should be formally restored
    • Some countries with large public debts remain vulnerable to market sentiment fluctuations. However, there are ways to reduce these debts without any transfer or mutual guarantees
    EU Institutions EU Member States Eurozone Future of Europe Macroeconomics

    Creating a decentralised Eurozone

    Future of Europe

    29 Nov 2019

  • On 16 July 2019, the European Parliament elected Ursula von der Leyen president of the European Commission by a narrow majority of nine votes. To be elected, von der Leyen had to make numerous concessions to the Socialists and Liberals—and to the Greens, even though they had announced they would not support her in the vote. This document recommends areas where action by the new Commission would be considered beneficial from a centre–right perspective. It does so selectively, without addressing all the possible areas of initiative. The recommendations are designed to highlight general areas of action, give a sense of direction and offer ideas, as opposed to prescribing specific measures. Thus, the authors intend this to be a discussion paper that contributes to the public debate on the priorities of the next Commission.

    EU Institutions European Union Future of Europe Leadership

    Recommendations for the new European Commission President


    09 Oct 2019

  • Future of Europe

    Subsidiarity in the EU: From principle to practice

    European View

    26 Apr 2019

  • This paper aims to provide a critical analysis of the federalist doctrines that influenced the development of European integration. It argues that four federalist visions emerged at the dawn of European integration, each with its own specific ideological background and its own idea of what the federal Europe of the future should look like. The progressive federalism of Altriero Spinelli was different from the technocratic federalism of Jean Monnet, as much as the liberal federalism of Luigi Einaudi diverged from the personalist federalism of Christian Democrats.

    The  paper also contends  that  the  two  federalist philosophies most influential throughout European integration—those of Spinelli and Monnet— are founded on a unitary view of sovereignty and care little about protecting and retaining local state identities. On the contrary, within the Christian Democratic tradition there developed a bottom-up, culturally rooted federalism that was mindful of national and regional autonomy and averse to the concept of absolute sovereignty, be it national or European. Today, it is from this tradition that we should draw inspiration to redesign a more legitimate EU.

    EU Institutions EU Member States European Union Future of Europe Integration Leadership

    The Four ‘Classical Federalisms’

    Future of Europe

    22 Oct 2018

  • This paper reflects on the notion of differentiated integration in the context of the future of Europe. It argues that differentiation is only acceptable as an instrument of ‘unity in diversity’ and within strict limits. All forms of differentiation that risk fragmenting the Union and its institutional framework should be excluded. In the field of external policies existing treaties and the recent jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice allow the Union to speak with one voice and to privilege unity over differentiation. 

    As far as internal EU divides are concerned– from divisions over migration to those involving the rise of regional groups of countries—they are all transient and changeable and are not relevant subjects for differentiation. Finally, attempts to redefine the euro area as the new ‘hard core’ of European integration should be rejected, as they can only lead to the disintegration of the European project. Out of all the available legal techniques of differentiation, enhanced cooperation carries the lowest risk.

    EU Institutions European Union Future of Europe Integration Leadership

    Differentiation, not Disintegration

    Future of Europe

    15 May 2018

  • The European Union is experiencing a new dynamic behind its quest for a credible security and defence capacity. New projects and mechanisms suggest a shift in European ambition.

    This paper assesses the reality of this new dynamic, arguing that the EU needs a clearly articulated grand strategy – outlining the objectives in the Southern and Eastern neighbourhoods, and tailoring those objectives to realistic means. Those means will range from high end assets to purely civilian assets. Defence spending will require structured Europeanisation. 

    Involvement of third countries will require creative legal developments. EU-NATO relations must undergo fundamental revision. If ‘strategic autonomy’, the objective of the European Global Strategy, is to become a reality, it will involve the EU progressively assuming leadership within NATO, thereby meeting the calls across the United States for the allies to assume greater responsibility for their own affairs.

    Defence EU Member States European Union Future of Europe Security

    For a True European Defence Union

    Future of Europe

    07 Dec 2017

  • Just  as  it  did  seventy  years  ago, European integration today has four strategic objectives: peace, security, prosperity and identity. However, ‘mainstream Europeanism’—the current European consensus—seems increasingly incapable of providing the right vision for a successful continuation  of the European project.

    To meet the present challenges of European integration and secure unity across the continent, we should develop a new Europeanism that promotes stronger integration in defence, foreign policy and  border  control, while putting greater emphasis on decentralisation, national autonomy, economic reforms and cultural traditions.

    This would put into practice the EU’s motto ‘Unity in diversity’ and give precise content to the ideal of an EU that is ‘big on big things and small on small things’.

    Centre-Right EU Institutions European Union Euroscepticism Future of Europe Integration

    For a New Europeanism

    Future of Europe

    06 Jun 2017

  • While conservatives frequently offer trenchant criticisms of the European Union (EU), they are short on constructive suggestions about how the European project should be reformed. The tradition of international federalism, which exists in free-market thought, can be a source of such a reform agenda.

    Understood properly, a federalization of the EU does not mean an unqualified transfer of powers to European institutions. Instead, federalism provides a framework through assigning authority to different levels of government.

    In practice, that would mean strengthening the EU in a limited number of areas to provide essential Europe-wide services—foreign policy and defense, economic governance within the eurozone and the single market, and border protection and asylum policy—while repatriating a long list of powers back to member states.

    A federalist approach thus offers substantial promise in addressing the EU’s central policy challenges and relieving the tensions brought about by the block’s protracted crises. Conservatives and classical liberals should embrace international federalism as a way to constrain the power and size of government. That could provide a new focal point for a reinvigoration of centre-right political platforms across Europe.

    This publication was originally published on the American Enterprise Institute wesbsite

    Centre-Right EU Institutions European Union Future of Europe Integration

    The Case for a Federal Europe


    01 May 2017