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Nikolina Brnjac, President-in-Office of the Council. As you know, the December European Council gave us guidance to this effect. We believe that priority should be given to the implementation of the strategic agenda for , agreed in June last year, and to delivering concrete results for the benefit of our citizens.
The priorities outlined in the strategic agenda closely echo those raised by our citizens, for instance in the citizen consultations and dialogues. The Conference should build on the success of these dialogues over the last two years. Yesterday, my Prime Minister underlined how the Conference could be an opportunity to listen to citizens so that we are better able to meet their expectations.
We think the Conference should contribute to the development of our policies in the medium and long term so that we can better tackle current and future challenges. We also believe the upcoming Conference should be an inclusive process, involving our three institutions in full respect of the interinstitutional balance of our respective roles. Likewise, Member States should equally be involved, including their parliaments. Shared ownership is important. The European Council asked the Croatian Presidency to work towards defining a Council position on the content, scope, composition and functioning of a Conference on the Future of Europe and to engage on this basis with the European Parliament and the Commission.
We are indeed starting this work and I can announce to you that, today in Brussels, ambassadors will have a first informal exchange of views to that end, and that the General Affairs Council on 28 January will discuss the issue. Thank you very much for your attention. Today I stand before you, honourable Members, still as your friend and now also as your partner in my new role as Vice-President for Democracy and Demography. Like you, I know how important citizens are to European policy-making: after all we are making these decisions to their benefit.
However, we have not always got that right — this must be acknowledged. Now we have an opportunity to reflect with citizens, to listen to them, to connect and engage, to answer and explain, to build trust and confidence in each other between the European Union and citizens.
This is an important part of what the Conference on the Future of Europe is about. We are at a key moment in European political history and are facing a unique opportunity, as well as a challenge.
Getting this right will have repercussions, not just for the present but for the future. It is up to us all to make this a success. Honourable Members, let me be very clear: we are no longer politics as business as usual. The old way of doing politics no longer works.
Citizens want us to hear them, and we must listen to them and give them the feedback they need. Cooperation and courage are the new keywords in this process. We must be brave and find new creative and innovative solutions to make our democracy work even better for citizens.
We must do this together as partners: the Parliament, the Council and the Commission. To this end, a joint declaration from all three institutions can pave the way for this unique partnership.
But partnership does not stop with these three institutions. Member States and their national parliaments must also be involved. Their cooperation will be an asset to this process. To ensure we reach every citizen, especially those who do not always engage directly with us, we rely heavily on cooperation with the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee.
I am committed to visiting regions in my role as Vice-President, and I want to hear from citizens from all corners of the European Union. Shall we stop here, dear colleagues? Certainly not: this is an open process. As the Conference progresses, hopefully, others will join us. There are two strands to this process. The second strand addresses institutional topics such as the election of the President of the Commission and transnational lists.
Here, the role of the Commission is that of honest broker. This would be the content of the joint declaration I referred to earlier. I can already see the potential for a fruitful partnership with the European Parliament, given the priorities we share.
Honourable Members, as directly-elected representatives of the citizens, you are crucial to this process, and I welcome the resolution of this House, as well as your commitment not to pre-determine the outcome of the Conference.
I believe that pre-determining the outcome would cause more damage to democracy than if it did nothing at all. So no pre-determining from our side. Honourable Members, by confirming me in my post as Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, you have shown that you have placed your trust in me. Just as it is important to build trust with the citizens, I want to build trust with you, and I look forward to hearing your views. Credo che questo sia nell'interesse delle istituzioni europee ma, nel suo insieme, dell'Unione.
Credo che oggi, per questo Parlamento, sia una giornata, da questo punto di vista, importante e condivisa con tutti i gruppi politici, in un percorso di ascolto, di confronto e di dialogo, naturalmente con tutte le istituzioni europee. Avremo successo se le istituzioni europee sapranno camminare insieme. Io vi ringrazio e do subito la parola a Manfred Weber, presidente del Partito popolare.
The second largest democracy on the globe. That is the starting point for our debate, so people believe in Europe; people trust in Europe; people want to contribute to the future of Europe. The key question is now: does my vote count? Does it really have an impact? What are the principles for the working structure for us as the PPE Group? So, to find a way to get in touch with the ideas of our citizens to involve them in the process. The second thing is that Parliament is in the lead.
That we are the representatives of the citizens. We are representing the political landscape of the European Union of today — geographically, politically, from the content point of view.
We are representing a Parliament where we really respect the free mandate in a very, very positive sense.
First of all I want to underline that with Dobrevka as Vice-President responsible for the issue, we really can work very strongly together. And another element for these principles is to involve the national parliaments. That is the working structure and then about the direction. Democracy is based on two principles — on candidates and on a programme. So the old debates on the Spitzenkandidat concept, last year we failed with this idea, it is still our interest as the PPE and we want to make this Spitzenkandidat process a binding process for the upcoming elections on the European level.
We need a healthy competition between the European parties. That means we have to reflect again on the rules for the European political parties, and we have to consider how to strengthen the rights of this institution — the European Parliament — for example on the key issue, the question of right of initiative for the European Parliament, like all other parliaments have. So that is what must be the direction for the future.
More democratic — people decide. That is the best medicine against the anti-Europeans. And finally, are we really prepared for the challenges of tomorrow? What can we do under the current Treaty, but also, is there a need for a Treaty change?
That is another element which we want to discuss during the conference on the future of Europe. Y debemos aprovecharlos. Porque todos tienen algo que aportar. No se dan cuenta de que Europa suma. Por eso, es la hora de defender la democracia europea y recordar que debemos mejorar la vida de las personas. Hemos dejado que crezca la pobreza, y que aumente la desigualdad, y eso solo puede aumentar los populismos. Con gran tristeza despedimos a un miembro, aunque espero que solo sea temporalmente.
Esto es una comunidad de destino que nos pertenece a todos y todas, y entre todos y todas debemos marcar el rumbo. For his last plenary, what better idea than to dedicate the prime slot of the week to this conference, what I think is a bit his worst nightmare. While Nigel and the band of lying Brexiteers are driving the UK over the cliff edge, we start a much needed debate on the next steps of European integration, a debate that will lead to a stronger and a more democratic Union and because we think what is needed in a time of climate crisis, of large corporations not paying their taxes, of being squished between a less reliable United States and an ever-stronger China, is not small mindedness, is not national selfishness.
We have to unite. We have to cooperate because otherwise we perish, small and alone. Our ambition is to have a grand debate with citizens from all across the European Union, with national parliaments, with the EU institutions. I know there are risks in this project — having this debate in 24 languages, possibly not breaking out of the Brussels bubble, maybe not delivering the kind of reforms that citizens expect from us, but I think the worst thing we could do is to not even try.
So we have seen in the euro and in the migration crisis that we always get stuck when integration is done only half way. So I think the answer that we have to deliver, is that we give the European Union the tools and the competence to actually address the major challenges of our time. Marco Zanni, a nome del gruppo ID. It is wrong because Article 48 4 of the Treaty on the European Union states clearly that it is the Council, not Parliament or the Commission, that can convene such a conference.
I know that the attitude of this Chamber and of the Commission towards the Treaties has been consistently rather cavalier, but let us at least remember that we are deviating from what the Treaties have stipulated. So the attitude is that the aim justifies the means, the aim being ever closer union justifies the means, even distraining and ignoring the letter and the spirit of the Treaties.
It is wrong because the whole procedure to produce this document was a disgrace. The Committee on Constitutional Affairs AFCO excluded two Groups from serious involvement in drafting its opinion and fixed the voting list in advance. Five Groups prepared the document in secret and excluded two Groups from having any input in the draft text.
This is the tyranny of the majority. This is foul play. It is wrong because it gives the European Parliament the leading role in the process to the detriment of national parliaments, and the democratic legitimacy of national parliaments is far, far greater than that of the European Parliament. It is wrong because it gives the real power of the conference into the hands of an inner cabal, called the board, which will no doubt include only the representatives of the five political groups.