It is a pleasure for me to be with you today, for my first College read-out and press conference.
Discussions focused on two points:
-High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell gave us the weekly update on the international situation, focusing on the Berlin conference on Libya and the situation in the Middle East.
-The main point of discussion was the Communication on Shaping the Conference on the Future of Europe, which I will now present you.
Today the college has adopted a dynamic and balanced Communication as the Commission contribution to the Shaping of the Conference on the Future of Europe.
Citizens asked us to be more involved beyond elections, they want to have a greater say in the EU policy-making.
We are reacting to this request with a unique and ambitious initiative: As announced by President von der Leyen in her Political Guidelines, the Conference will allow citizens from diverse background and all corners of the Union to engage in an open, transparent and structured debate around the key priorities for our future.
This initiative will provide us with a unique opportunity to reflect with citizens, to listen to them, to connect and engage, to explain, and hence build trust and confidence in each other.
The Commission sees the Conference as a bottom-up forum for an open, inclusive and transparent debate accessible to people from all corners of the Union. Other EU institutions, national parliaments, social partners, regional and local authorities and civil society are invited to join. A multilingual online platform will ensure transparency of debate and support wider participation.
We propose two parallel work strands for the debates.
-The first focused on EU priorities and objectives: including on the fight against climate change and environmental challenges, an economy that works for people, social fairness and equality, Europe's digital transformation, promoting our European values, strengthening the EU's voice in the world, as well as shoring up the Union's democratic foundations.
-The second strand on topics related to democratic processes and institutional matters: notably the lead candidate system and transnational lists for elections to the European Parliament from 2024.
As we do not want to continue doing business as usual and we want this to be a success, we need to:
-Reach out to as many citizens as possible
-Commit an open dialogue and conversation
-Ensure that citizens see the tangible impact of the debates, through a feedback mechanism allowing ideas to translate in concrete recommendations.
We will build on the positive experience of the Citizens' dialogues and we will go beyond the cities and metropolitan regions to reach out also to those who are critical towards the European Union.
To ensure this broad outreach, we propose to use wide range of tools, both digital and non-digital, for instance, we could try to use sporting events or festivals, to bring Europe into the daily lives of citizens.
It is clear that a two-year long Conference, involving a multitude of different events, will need a strong organisation. As this is a truly joint effort, it will be important to establish a simple, workable and practical structure, which gives the three main EU institutions ownership of the Conference and jointly decide on the best way to organise its work.
Last week, I represented the Commission at the debate in the European Parliament, where I talked about our position on the Resolution. The Council is in the process of discussing its position and I will participate in the General Affairs Council on 28 January, where this will be deliberated.
The concept, structure, scope and timing of the conference will be jointly defined with the European Parliament and the Council. We suggest that this could take the form of a Joint Declaration, which should then be open to other signatories including the other EU institutions, organisations and stakeholders, who would thus commit to respecting the objectives and modalities of the Conference.
The Commission proposes to officially launch the Conference on Europe Day, 9 May 2020 - 70 years after the signing of the Schuman Declaration and 75 years after the end of the Second World War.
We will have to be bold, creative and embrace together the innovative nature of this process. Where there is a will, there is a way!