"La Liberté guiding the people"

Conference on the future of Europe — Unloved, unknown and underestimated

Feature photo: Detail from Eugène Delacroix's "La Liberté guidant le peuple" (Louvre, 1830)

With a big aplomb she was Conference on the future of Europe already announced in 2019. The pandemic and an epic dispute over who gets to control it, with what means and goals, delayed it by a year. Opened on May 9, 2021, the actual work only started after the summer break. The conference is now entering the home straight. Because France's President, the current Council President Emmanuel Macron, insists on their ceremonial conclusion shortly before the French presidential elections. Its creator decidedly rejected the originally planned duration of two years. Meanwhile, governments are neglecting the conference, very few citizens know about them, and conference participants are largely groping in the dark. Unloved and unknown, the "CoFoE" is heading for a debacle. Or not? Perhaps there is also an opportunity in the Council's lack of ideas and lack of ideas and the general underestimation of the conference.

Appreciation looks different, according to the plenary members of the conference, who are part of the Europe in the World working group. Clement Beaune, France's Secretary of State for Europe and Macron's right-hand man on European policy issues, was supposed to lead the AG, but shone through abstinence. Anyone who sees this as a contradiction to Macron's resolute support for the conference does not understand the dialectic of modern European politics. Today's European visionaries approach their goals in reverse gear. This is intended to confuse the other side, and to ensure that this succeeds, everyone involved is immediately disoriented. The merry month of May may then surprisingly bring results to light that open the eyes of all disappointed people without being used up and talked about in the media.

At the moment, however, it looks like the conference report will contain little or no recommendations for institutional reform of the EU. The interim reports suggest that only the proposals from the citizens' forums and online platform, which fit well into the work program of the European Commission, will also find their way into the final report. The Council will welcome this pragmatism on the part of the Commission.

Or will it still come, the European ballroom oath? In 1789, the representatives of the third estate in the French assembly of estates, i.e. citizens and farmers, swore not to part again before a constituent assembly for the ailing kingdom had been convened. According to European logic, the Constituent or Constituent Assembly would be a new convention. But the member states shun it like the devil shuns holy water. Will the European Parliament, social partners and organized civil society step into the shoes of citizens and farmers? It's not too late yet. And there is a certain probability that Germany and France will want to set new European policy impetus after the presidential elections - and in view of the increasing dangers to European unity and freedom, they will also have to work with other willing partners. If not the conference and its results, what will they be able to point to? Your results will provide an important basis for legitimacy. The conference, unloved and unknown, is underestimated. Everyone, regardless of whether they have expectations or fears regarding further European integration, should pay close attention to this.

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