The just-launched Conference of the Future of Europe must “establish a Union fit for purpose” in a world increasingly driven by authoritarian and “big beast attitudes,” Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chair for the conference told its opening plenary session Saturday.
Representatives from all three European Union institutions said the EU’s much-touted democratic renewal project marked a time to reach out to citizens across the continent to “define a new vision for Europe’s future,” as the EU faces up to global challenges.
Former Belgian Prime Minister Verhofstadt, said the process was crucial to “establish a Union fit for purpose for the upcoming decades” capable of responding to new challenges in a world “no longer centered around the EU but on giants like Russia, China, India and the U.S.” A world, he said, “driven more and more by authoritarian, zero-sum and big beast attitudes and rules.”
The plenary session was also attended by EU Commission Vice-president Dubravka Šuica and Ana Paula Zacarias, Secretary of State for European Affairs in Portugal, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.
The conference is “a true genuine process of real engagement with our citizens,” Zacarias said . The project has sparked both hope and skepticism, with some observers warning that rogue EU leaders might seek to co-opt it to boost their political agendas.
“This is the first important step in embedding citizen engagement in the EU,” Šuica told cross-party MEPs and EU officials gathered in the Strasbourg Parliament.
Verhofstadt said that Saturday’s plenary would become “complete” in October, when a second plenary session is set to take place with civil society panels.
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