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The Conference on the Future of Europe - A legal analysis of the continent's largest democratic experiment

Sandro Gozi

The decade of hardship that the EU has been confronted with since the signature of the 2007 Treaty of Lisbon unveiled the shortcomings of its current institutional framework. While the financial crisis and the rising sovereign debts were about to inflict a final blow to the EU28 and on the Eurozone, the response to the Covid-19 pandemic showed a new political unity in the adoption of common measures in various policy areas. The emission of common debt and the creation of new own resources, the adoption of Next Generation EU can represent the beginning of a new phase in the process of EU integration. As the test of history has made clear that the EU needs profound reforms, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council have jointly decided to follow an innovative path to achieve such goal, by convening a Conference on the Future of Europe. Originally conceived by the President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, the Conference will allow randomly selected citizens to debate on the future of Europe, and to address recommendations directly to European, national and local policymakers.

If compared with similar experiments of direct democracy, the structure of the Conference drew inspiration from the Irish Constitutional Conventions and the French Convention Citoyenne pour le Climat, by ensuring at the same time a multi-level governance approach to allow all level of government to take part to the discussions on the future of Europe. Randomly selected Europeans will be gathered in four Citizens’ panels, which will be focusing on specific policy areas. The debates that have taken place so far clearly indicate a strong support of citizens towards an in-depth reform of the decision-making processes of the EU and of its economic governance, while enhancing the involvement and participation of citizens to the everyday work of the Union. Since the topic of the European democracy has been the object of a considerable number of recommendations, this paper will explore various venues of reforms ranging from the overcoming of unanimity voting in the Council, to the establishment of a right of initiative for the European Parliament and the creation of transnational lists in the context of European elections.

The success of Next Generation EU and the necessity to go beyond the obsolete Stability and Growth Pact have potentially created a new momentum for the creation of a truly economic union complementing the monetary union. This work will therefore assess potential treaty revisions which would confer effective macroeconomic tools to address common challenges and economic shocks on the Union. Despite some European institutions consider treaty change as a taboo, such a solution could be unavoidable if a proper follow-up to citizens’ proposal must be ensured. Therefore, this article will evaluate the different venues to revise the Treaties, such as the ordinary revision envisaged by Art. 48 TEU, but also the conclusion of two overlapping treaties (a federal treaty within the framework of a broader confederal one), and a treaty outside the framework of the existing ones.

Read the full article written by our Secretary General Sandro Gozi in the European Union Law Review