The future of the European Union: without a veto and on a social basis

Over the past twelve months, thousands of citizens from across the continent have discussed their thoughts and concerns about Europe and made proposals for the future of the European Union. This unique experiment in direct democracy, the Conference on the Future of Europe, is nearing completion. Electrical and mechanical engineering Guy Verhofstadt Accompany the whole process of the European Parliament.

Euronews correspondent, Sindoor Zyros: Guy Verhofstadt, welcome to euronews. The last plenary session of this conference is now underway. How do you see the process? Was it a success, semi-success, or perhaps a failure?

Guy Verhofstadt, MEP in charge of the Conference on the Future of Europe: When we started a year ago, there were not many who believed in the usefulness of the conference on the future of Europe. Meanwhile, in addition to the Corona pandemic, we have a massive crisis with the Ukraine war. Allen ist klar, dass die Europäische Union reformiert werden muss, um in der Zukunft, – die eine andere Welt sein wird – zu überleben, um die Interessen unserer Bürger zu verteidigen und um schneller und entstschnloss ener, in hand zu Veranse to have.

euronews: What are the most interesting proposals?

Guy VerhofstadtOne of the most important proposals is, for example, the abolition of the veto in the European Union. So there is no more unanimity in the voting and decision-making processes. Because of the consensus, the EU always acts too little and too late. This was the case with the financial crisis, the migration crisis and also the Covid crisis. And that’s also the problem today, in this wartime. We need to get rid of that and introduce a simple majority system or a qualified majority system for every issue within the union so that we can act faster than in the past.

euronews: This requires changing the existing EU treaties. How do you see the chances of that?

Guy Verhofstadt: As far as I know, the European Parliament will assume its responsibilities. We will ask for a contract change.

euronews: What about social issues? Jobs, housing and healthcare. What do the citizens say about this?

Guy Verhofstadt: They want Europe to have competencies in this area as well, and to have a social basis, a social floor that Europe creates and guarantees throughout the EU. With regard to immigration, citizens have formulated a comprehensive strategy to solve immigration problems at the European level, through legal immigration, combating illegal immigration, finding solutions for refugees, war refugees, etc.

euronews: What is your personal favorite recommendation?

Guy Verhofstadt: My favorite is the EU Combined Armed Forces topic. The fact that we are building a common defense policy, because you can see from the war with Ukraine that we lack that. You have to know that in Europe we spend more or less than 240 billion euros on defence. This is equal to four times the Russians. But if you look at the situation today, we are not in a position to do anything about it, at least not without the help of our American friends. The biggest waste of money in the EU is the lack of 27 militaries, too many overlaps and not enough effectiveness.

euronews: Democracy and the rule of law have been high on the EU’s agenda for the past ten years. When you talked about it during the conference with politicians or people from Poland, Hungary and the rest of Europe: Was there any understanding about it?

Guy Verhofstadt: It is not difficult to understand the principle of the rule of law. But the problem is that in some countries, those in power who have a majority in parliament think they can do whatever they want because they have a majority. This is not the rule of law. What is important is that at the conference, based on the suggestions of citizens, we even decided to change the treaty in order to make this work a success. Because there can be few European family members who think money is important but values ​​are not.

euronews: War broke out in Ukraine two months ago. How does that change people’s view of Europe? Was the conference able to think of this?

Guy Verhofstadt: Most citizens’ forums were set up before the outbreak of the war. But we saw that the outcome of the conference fits perfectly with the new challenges we face as a result of the war in Ukraine. We are talking about ending the consensus on foreign and defense policy. We are talking about an energy union to create an energy union as soon as possible, which we do not have in Europe today. There is no energy joint procurement, and the energy mix is ​​still being decided at the national level.”

euronews: What direction do the citizens of Europe want to take? More Europe or less Europe?

Guy Verhofstadt: Citizens don’t discuss it the way you describe it. You are a journalist. You classify everything. I’m a politician, I do the same thing. You are from the right, they are from the left. They are for Europe more or less for Europe. You are skeptical of Europe or Europehill. Citizens behave very differently. Most citizens have the same opinion in one way or another. You love Europe. They believe that Europe is the solution to many of our problems. But they don’t like how it works today. They do not believe that the European Union today is the fulfillment of their wishes for Europe. This is the common understanding of all citizens and those who call themselves Euroskeptics and Euroskeptics. This is the big lesson. People like Europe have a European dream. You really believe that the future of this continent lies in the European Union. But they have a lot of criticism about the way you work today or the way you don’t work today.

euronews: Nationalist and populist forces in Europe are already criticizing that this conference is an instrument of European federation. How do you see this criticism and did you hear these voices during the conference?

Guy Verhofstadt: Certainly because the citizens present were critical and suspicious of Europe. They were all there. But in the end they had to agree on a common vision and common proposals. I saw that the right-wing populist parties liked the conference at first. Then when they saw the citizens’ proposals, they said: Ah, that’s not what we want. We don’t like them anymore. This is not fair to the citizens. The citizens have spoken out and we have to take it seriously and implement it.

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