The EU has the capability of placing a soporific blanket over much of its politics and also has a reputation for only reforming at the point of crisis. The last year has given it the opportunity to challenge both reputations. The EU held a citizen’s assembly driven Conference on the Future of Europe. (CoFoE). The idea was conceived by President Macron who in a 2019 speech called for this. It became an opportunity to try and raise the Union’s eyes above the trench warfare realpolitik of the EU.

The Conference’s genesis was complex, but impetus was given by the shenanigans played in the appointment/election of Von der Leyen as President of the Commission. The Parliament was unhappy at the way in which the spitzenkandidat process had been subverted. Von der Leyen, promised a mechanism by which it could be strengthened by promising to hold a conference in her statement for confirmation. The proposal rapidly came to include the use of citizen assemblies which it was hoped would enable innovative and orthogonal ideas to evolve. See also, my notes on my wiki.

The Conference was convened, it deliberated over 2021/2 and made its report to the final plenary held in April 2022. Important proposals were made on the topics of democracy, the rule of law, the EU in the world, and digitisation. The report also considered key economic and social issues in chapters on climate change, health, the economy and social justice, and education, all of which on first examination would involve an extension of EU competencies. These demands for a guarantee of a better life has come from the citizens’ panels and mirrors many of the demands made by the Chilean constitutional assembly.

Energy and Climate Change

On climate change, the conference proposes requiring safe, sustainable, and just production of food, while also requiring the same principles to be applied to energy supply.

The measures are obvious and effective. While they regrettably do not refer to the IPCC temperature change limitation goals, they adopt a series of progressive investment goals in renewable energy, while maintaining an absolute commitment to a just transition and the maintenance of social and human rights. Protecting biodiversity , the importance of public transport systems and internet connectivity were also mentioned as part of an anti-climate change programme.


On Health, the centre piece for progressives must be the proposal calling for a “right to health” by guaranteeing all Europeans have equal and universal access to affordable, preventive, curative and quality health care.

Making access free is not explicitly demanded but the proposal calls for treaty change to allow the EU and its member states to offer a pan-European personal and public health service to its citizens and residents.

Economics and social justice

The chapter,   “A stronger economy, social justice and jobs”, calls, for the need to subordinate the macro-economic goals of the European Semester to the European Green Deal, digital transition and social justice & progress goals. It explicitly calls, in the context of the single market, the importance, if not the primacy, of the need to conform to “Sustainable Development Goals, including gender equality, and … not [to] undermine the protection of human, social and workers’ rights [ and] environmental and consumer protection standards.” It also calls for the EU’s macro-economic policy framework to take on board full-employment, sustainability, and minimum income goals.

On Tax, the report focuses on anti-tax avoidance measures, QMV for council decisions on tax, and anti-tax haven measures. The report is particularly excised by corporate tax avoidance through transfer pricing and international profit repatriation.

The one downside is where the report talks about responsible fiscal policies at the member state level, which is usually code for austerity and suggests that on the debate between QMT & Keynesianism, this part of the report is agnostic at best and remains in favour of tight money at worst.


On education, the report demands the immediate establishment of an inclusive “Education Area” which provides equal access to quality education and life long learning. They propose mutual recognition of professional degrees and a common validation scheme. They make practical proposals  that would give effect to this while recognising the need to accept national, regional and local variances. They also propose using the cohesion fund to combat brain drain and/or youth exodus.

The Education chapter also includes proposals on youth, culture and exchanges, and sport. They propose permitting votes at 16, promoting exchanges beyond Erasmus+.

What next?

The European Parliament has issued a call for a convention to amend the Treaties to consider all the changes while the Council in July postponed its reply to the Parliament’s request. Some of these proposals would seem to require treaty change, others maybe not; the EU always seems to find a way to change itself when circumstances need.

This article highlights the progressive demands of the Conference, on Health, Climate Change, Social & Economic Justice and Education. It is a social democratic manifesto addressing the demands of the less well-off and marginalised. It’s the opportunity for a renewal of the social pillar which progressives should grasp with both hands, this time in alliance with the voters of otherwise conservative governments.

Last week in her State of the Union speech, Von Der Leyen committed to a call for a Convention on the treaties, prioritising an inter-generational contract, to leave the world better than we find it for our children but also to make the accession of new countries simpler and to ease decision making.  She welcomed the Conference outcome.Whether a convention is called, and whether all items will be on the table is now in the hands of the European Council.

I had hoped to get this published elsewhere, but it seems not, I have backdated it to the date I submitted it to what I considered my best hope.

Big changes after CoFoE
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