Europe

Macron launches online forum on Europe's future with call for a more agile EU

French president Emmanuel Macron cited the European Parliament in Strasbourg as one of the key reasons why the city would retain its relevance in any reconfiguration of European institutions.
French president Emmanuel Macron cited the European Parliament in Strasbourg as one of the key reasons why the city would retain its relevance in any reconfiguration of European institutions. © FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron called on Sunday for a more agile and reactive European Union at the launch in Strasbourg of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

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The conference - a citizen consultation via an online platform - is the brainchild of the French leader with a schedule to culminate next spring when France takes its turn with the presidency of the EU.

 "In the face of authoritarianism, the only valid response is the authority of democracy," said Macron at the European Parliament's headquarters in Strasbourg. "This can only be won through efficiency and speed."

In an interview with the regional newspaper Dernières nouvelles d'Alsace, Macron said he wanted to insure that Strasbourg maintained its relevance.

"If Brussels is the capital of Europe's offices, Strasbourg is the capital of its heart and soul: where it is where its values are defended."

Citing the city's institutions such as the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights as well as the television channel Arte, Macron said Strasbourg should remain at the heart of the European vision.

"Europe is not a project that fits into a single city," he added. "Europe is not a project of hegemony. It is a project of balance."

Macron described the conference as an unprecedented exercise to map out the next 10 years.

The online platform will allow European citizens to share their vision of Europe. So-called "citizens' consultations" will also take place in France.

The concept received the backing of Macron's counterparts.

"This conference must not remain a Brussels-centred exercise," said the Portuguese prime minister, Antonio Costa.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission added: "We are at a particularly important moment for young people to express themselves." 

A survey commissioned by the European Parliament and the Commission found that eight out of 10 Europeans believe the conference should focus on how the EU can better manage crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

"This conference is for ordinary citizens," said David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament. "Europe is not just for the elites, nor does it belong to them."

Jeanne Barseghian, the mayor of Strasbourg echoed Sassoli's view. "This is a wonderful opportunity for citizens to say how they see Europe," she told Agence France-Presse.

"It is essential that the voice of European citizens is heard. The conference should not be a gimmick or an empty shell."

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