Daniel Freund

27. April 2022 Democracy

Dear Europeans,

 

The abolition of national vetoes, the right of initiative for the European Parliament, higher EU investment in climate and social, and an ambitious reform of the EU agricultural policy: on Tuesday evening, the Executive Board of the Conference on the Future of Europe agreed on a comprehensive reform package. The final paper includes 49 recommendations and more than 200 proposals for concrete measures – a considerable number of which requires amendments to the EU treaties in order to be implemented. 

 

The paper is the result of the Conference on the Future of Europe. 800 randomly selected citizens voiced their wishes and demands which have subsequently been discussed and elaborated in the Conference’s working groups, comprising representatives of the European Parliament, the Member States’ governments, national parliamentarians and European citizens. On Saturday (30.04), the recommendations will be endorsed by the Conference plenary and subsequently handed over to Macron, Von der Leyen and Metsola on May 9th. 

 

Daniel Freund, Greens/EFA representative in the Conference Presidium, comments: 

 

These reform proposals should not stay on the shelf but must be implemented immediately. The abolition of national vetoes is the Conference’s core demand – it has top priority. We now have the unique opportunity to make Europe more democratic and ready to act. It would be absolutely irresponsible of the member states to continue slowing down the process.”

 

“This agreement is historic. It paves the way for a European Constitutional Convention. Europe’s citizens and their opinions have been at the center of the conference from the very start. Their proposals now form the heart of the reform package. Citizens have spoken loudly in favor of a more democratic EU with greater capacity to act. All EU institutions and the member states now have the duty to implement these reforms in order to advance the EU on its way towards a federal republic of Europe. The abolition of national vetoes must be a top priority. It is the Conference’s core demand and would give an enormous boost to the EU’s ability to act.”

 

You can find all 49 proposals here: https://danielfreund.eu/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/2022-04-25_COFE-draft-proposals.docx 

 

PROPOSALS FOR TREATY CHANGES

 

Qualified majority voting instead of unanimity in foreign, social, fiscal, budgetary and other areas (“All issues decided by way of unanimity should be decided by way of a qualified majority. The only exceptions should be the admission of new membership to the EU and changes to the fundamental principles of the EU as stated in Art. 2 TEU and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.” WG Democracy, verbatim EU citizens’ panel 4, recommendation 21 and stated similarly by WG EU in the World), Right of budget for the European Parliament (“European Parliament should decide on the budget of the EU as it is the right of parliaments at the national level”, WG Democracy).

 

Right of initiative for the European Parliament (“The European Parliament should have the right of legislative  initiative, in order to propose the topics to be discussed and, subsequently, adopt the necessary texts to follow up on the recommendations that emerge from deliberations”, WG Democracy).

 

Universal applicability of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights (also regarding national action independent of EU law) (“The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights should be made universally applicable and enforceable”, WG Values).

 

Abolish unanimity for rule of law sanctions via Article 7 TEU (“Effectively applying and evaluating the scope of the ‘Conditionality Regulation’ and other rule of law instruments, and considering extensions to new areas regardless of their relevance for the EU budget. Any necessary legal avenues, including Treaty changes, should be considered to punish breaches of the rule of law”, WG Values); (“Ensuring the protection of EU values laid down in the treaties, including the rule of law and a strong social model, which are at the core of the European democracy, also abolishing the right of veto in the European Council established in Art. 7.2 TEU”, WG Democracy). 

 

Introduce a EU citizenship statute guaranteeing rights and freedoms and build a better legal basis for a statute for European cross-border associations and non-profit organisations (“Making European values tangible for EU citizens, especially through more interactive and direct involvement. To this end, the European citizenship should be strengthened for instance through a European citizenship statute providing citizen-specific rights and freedoms, as well as a statute for European cross-border associations and non-profit organisations”, WG Values).

 

New European fundamental rights, e.g. for families, regarding marriage for all or adoption (“Taking action to guarantee that all families enjoy equal family rights in all Member States. This should include the right to marriage and adoption”, WG Economy, EU Citizens Panel recommendation 27) and minimum pensions (“Preventing old age poverty by introducing minimum pensions. Such minimum levels would need to take account of the living standard, the poverty line and purchase power in the respective Member State”, WG Economy, EU citizens’ panel recommendation 21).

 

EU-wide referenda on exceptional topics, triggered by the European Parliament (“Conceiving a EU wide referendum, to be triggered by the European Parliament, in exceptional cases on matters particularly important to all European citizens”, WG Democracy, EU citizens’ panel recommendation 18).

 

Make health policy a shared competency (“Beef up the European Health Union using the full potential of the current framework and start exploring the possibility to include health and healthcare among the shared competencies between the EU and the EU Member States. In order to include this new shared competence, there is a need to amend Article 4 of the TFEU” WG Health, EU citizens’ panel recommendation 49) and European minimum health care standards (“Establish common minimum healthcare standards at EU level, covering also prevention and accessibility of care, and provide support to achieve these standards”, WG Health, EU citizens’ panel recommendation 39). 

 

Widen the EU’s competences in social policies (“Reinforcing the competences of the EU in social policies and proposing legislation to promote social policies and ensure equality of rights, including health, harmonised for the entire EU, which take into consideration agreed regulations and the minimum requirements throughout the territory”, WG Economy, EU citizens’ panel recommendations 19 and 21). 

 

Include a Social Progress Protocol in the treaties (“We need to ensure the full implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, including its relevant headline targets for 2030, at EU, national, regional and local level in the areas of “equal opportunities and access to the labour market” and “fair working conditions”, while respecting competences and the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and to include a Social Progress Protocol in the Treaties. … Taking steps to ensure that social rights take precedence in case of conflict with economic freedoms including via the introduction of a social progress protocol in the Treaties”, WG Economy).

 

European minimum wages (“Ensuring that statutory minimum wages guarantee that each worker can earn a decent and similar quality of living across all Member States. Clear criteria (e.g. living costs , inflation, above the poverty line, the average and median wage at national level) to be taken into account when setting minimum wages level should be set up The levels of statutory minimum wages should be regularly reviewed in light of these criteria in order to ensure their adequacy. Special attention should be put on effective implementation of these rules and monitoring and tracking improvement in the standard of living. At the same time, collective bargaining should be strengthened and promoted throughout the EU”, WG Economy, EU citizens’ panel recommendations 1 and 30, DE citizens’ panel recommendation 4.2).

 

Improve coordination of tax policies by introducing qualified majority voting instead of unanimity (“Harmonizing and coordinating tax policies within the Member States of the EU in order to prevent tax evasion and avoidance, avoiding tax havens within the EU and targeting offshoring within Europe, including by ensuring that decisions on tax matters can be taken by qualified majority in the Council of the EU while still allowing leeway for individual Member States to set their own tax rules (within a certain threshold) to deal with their own economic and societal issues”, WG Economy, EU citizens’ panel recommendation 13 and 31, IT citizens’ panel recommendation 4.b.3).

 

Finance European investments through new own resources, common EU borrowing (“We propose that the EU promotes future-oriented investments focused on the green and digital transitions with a strong social and gender dimension, building on the examples of the Next Generation EU and the SURE instrument. The EU needs to take into account the social and economic impact of the war against Ukraine by adapting its economic governance to new geopolitical context and by strengthening its own budget through new own resources. … Give further consideration to common borrowing at EU level, with a view to creating more favourable borrowing conditions, while maintaining responsible fiscal policies at Member State level”, WG Economy, LT citizens’ panel recommendation 9).

 

Increase the transparency of decision-making, especially related to Council decisions (“Ensuring transparency of decision-making by allowing independent citizens’ observers to closely follow the decision-making process, guaranteeing broader right of access to documents, and develop on this basis stronger links and an enhanced dialogue between citizens and the EU institutions; … The EU needs to improve the transparency of its decision-making process and institutions”, WG Democracy, EU citizens’ panel recommendation 34).

 

Strengthen the Parliament’s right of inquiry (“the European Parliament’s right of inquiry should be strengthened”, WG democracy).

 

Discuss a European Constitution (“Reopening the discussion about the constitution, where applicable, to help us align better on our values. A constitution may help to be more precise as well as involve citizens and agree on the rules of the decision-making process”, WG democracy, EU citizens’ panel 2 recommendation 35, FR panel).

In addition, transnational electoral lists have been demanded – a reform which is achievable without treaty changes (“Amending EU electoral law to harmonise electoral conditions … for the European Parliament elections, as well as moving towards voting for Union-wide lists, or ‘transnational lists’, with candidates from multiple Member States … Some of the Members of the European Parliament should be elected through a European Union-wide list, the rest being elected within the Members’ States; … The reform should ensure that young people are fully able to participate in the representative democracy by lowering the voting age to 16 and by harmonising the minimum age to stand for election with the voting age”, WG democracy, EU citizens’ panel 2 recommendation 16).