European politicians at a conference set up to revamp the EU signed off Saturday on a blueprint for deeper integration, prompting a group of right-wing MEPs to withdraw from the project.
The Conference on the Future of Europe was established last year with the aim of bringing citizens and politicians from across the EU together to come up with ideas to overhaul the bloc.
At a session in Strasbourg on Saturday, the conference plenary — composed of representatives of EU institutions, national parliaments and citizens’ panels — approved more than 300 proposals. They include the abolition of national vetos, granting the European Parliament the right to propose legislation, more investment in climate change mitigation, the launch of “joint armed forces” and transnational voting lists.
The text notes there was a “difference of views” as to whether the accession of new EU countries should still require current members’ unanimous agreement and “a range of views” on the “extent to which there should be joint armed forces.”
“I’m really very touched today because this is a historic moment for our European democracy,” Dubravka Šuica, the European Commissioner for Democracy and Demography, told reporters. “I’m more than happy because we engaged citizens and citizens [were] very engaged and they really surprised me.”
The proposals now go to the conference’s executive board, which is expected to present the final report to the presidents of the EU institutions on May 9. How much of the plans will become reality depends to a large extent on the EU’s member governments, many of whom have not expressed great enthusiasm for the project.
“There was a lot of skepticism in the beginning of this whole process,” said MEP Guy Verhofstadt of the Renew Europe group, a co-chair of the executive board alongside Šuica. But now, he argued, “everybody has seen that it was a very serious undertaking and … a very promising way forward for the European Union.”
A wide range of European lawmakers — from the center-right European People’s Party to The Left group — lent their support to the proposals.
But that’s not music to everyone’s ears.
MEPs from the right-wing Identity and Democracy (ID) and European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) groups refused to support the proposals, arguing that they don’t reflect public opinion in the EU.
“The selection of citizens participating in the Conference was itself very flawed,” the ECR group said in a statement. “Research shows that citizens who are in favour of a more centralised Union were much more likely to accept an invitation to participate in the citizens’ panels of the Conference than those more sceptical.”
The group said it rejects “the idea“
“Walking out of this farce was the only right move,” said Swedish ECR MEP Charlie Weimers on Twitter.