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Emmanuel Macron and the other leaders of the European Union are going to Strasbourg on Sunday to attend a “conference on the future of Europe”. The opportunity for the French president to defend Strasbourg’s place in the European project.
This is a new opportunity for Emmanuel Macron to show his attachment to Europe. EU leaders are expected on Sunday 9 May in Strasbourg to kick off the Conference on the Future of Europe, a vast citizen consultation on which the Head of State intends to influence, one year from the presidential election.
For this solemn inauguration on the feast of Europe, “we want interactivity and exchanges, from this first day, with the citizens”, advanced the Elysee.
But, in the hemicycle of the European Parliament will first follow, from 2 p.m., the speeches of the French Head of State and the three European institutions: the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli, the President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen and Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, for the Council.
A more social Europe, a more united Europe, a stronger Europe. The face of Europe, our Europe! thanks dear @AntonioCostaPM for this Porto Summit, thank you to the Portuguese for their welcome. pic.twitter.com/RMgDtUCXEa
– Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 8, 2021
“We defend our values”
Covid-19 obliges, European citizens will intervene in video only and the vast Strasbourg hemicycle, deserted for more than a year in favor of Brussels by MEPs due to the health crisis, will remain sparse.
“If Brussels is the office capital of Europe, Strasbourg is the capital of its soul and its heart: where we think it is, where we defend our values,” said Emmanuel Macron, in an interview with Latest News from Alsace (DNA).
The Head of State, who will also sign a three-year contract to support Strasbourg’s European dimension, now wants “we find the operation as normal as possible, as quickly as possible”.
Emmanuel Macron’s initiative, the Conference on the Future of Europe should lead to conclusions in spring 2022, when France will assume the rotating presidency of the EU.
A timing that is timely for the Head of State, who intends to make his presidency of the EU an asset for the presidential election of May 2022.
A national version of the Conference on the future of Europe is also planned with the organization in September, in the 18 regions of the metropolis and overseas, of “citizens’ consultations” of French drawn from the comes out, a format reminiscent of that of the Citizen’s Climate Convention.
At the same time, Paris intends to conduct “a specific consultation aimed at young French people to ascertain their expectations with regard to Europe,” said the Elysee. “We are going to launch an extremely ambitious and very broad process in Strasbourg,” Emmanuel Macron assured DNA.
If Sunday’s ceremony marks the official opening of the Conference on the Future of Europe, it really began in March in Brussels, with the signing of a declaration by the three European institutions, then in mid-April. with the establishment of an internet platform on which Europeans are invited to give their vision of the future of the EU.
It was due to start a year earlier but was delayed by the health crisis and tough negotiations between Parliament, Commission and Council, which ultimately co-chaired it.
Equally laborious negotiations on the functioning of its plenary assembly of 433 members were only successful on Friday. They have helped to cast doubt on the ability and willingness of the EU to derive real political guidance from this consultation.
But the main unknown remains the participation of citizens in the debate, after a previous consultation in 2018 which was lost in limbo and a similar initiative in 2002 which gave birth to the draft European constitution destroyed by the “no” of referendums French and Dutch.
Eight in ten Europeans believe that the Conference on the Future of Europe should address as a priority how the EU could better manage crises like the Covid-19 epidemic, according to a poll commissioned by the European Parliament and the Commission.
“This Conference is for ordinary citizens (…). Europe is not reserved for the elites, nor does it belong to them,” David Sassoli insisted on Saturday.
“This is a magnificent opportunity for citizens to say how they see Europe,” the environmentalist mayor of Strasbourg Jeanne Barseghian told AFP, deeming it essential that the voice of European citizens “be heard” for may this conference “not be a gimmick, nor an empty shell”.
The city is also a candidate to host proceedings and other events of the conference.