Conference on the Future of Europe to have their say on every topic that concerns them, MEP, says all EU citizens can log onto
The EU has embarked on a process to identify its future and it wants to map out where it is going and how it wants to get there.
The Conference on the Future of Europe is a unique opportunity for all of us to have our say and to shape Europe’s future.
All Europeans from all walks of life, young or old, urban or rural have been invited to speak up and talk about the issues that affect their lives and to identify what kind of Europe they want for themselves and their children.
The central hub of the Conference is a multilingual platform designed as a place to share ideas, hear what others have to say, join an event or organise their own event. This is where you can make your voice heard.
I am one of 108 MEPs representing the European Parliament at this Conference and the message is clear — we want to hear as many voices as possible including those who may criticise or challenge the EU and its operations.
The outbreak of Covid-19 has changed Europe and the world and it will leave a lasting impact on how we all live and work and how we support one another. We are now witnessing a time of real demographic change in Europe. A recent report from the Commission assessed the impact of those changes.
By the year 2070, 30% of the population will be over 65 years compared to 20% today and those over 80 years will have doubled. Also the share of Europe's population in the world is shrinking and by 2070 it will be 4% down from 10% today. It is against this background that we must chart our future.
Many of the challenges and opportunities that we face today are global and we cannot address these on our own. As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic we can look back and see that we need to be better prepared and work together in a more coordinated manner when it comes to public healthcare.
Already a number of the EU institutions in the health-related area have been strengthened, but should we do more? Do we want Europe to play a greater role in the health area?
Certainly, a small country like Ireland benefits from a centralised purchasing system for vaccines, access to clinical trials or sharing of expertise. But do we want to go further possibly to the point where we may have to change the treaties that say the member states are responsible for the health of their citizens?
The EU is now smaller and we must build new alliances. Along with our EU partners, we must develop a new relationship with the UK.
Now is the time when we can shape that and the Conference will provide a platform for those ideas. How do we want Europe to engage globally with other major economic blocs such as the US or China? How do we support and continue to develop partnerships with the developing world?
The pandemic has also seen a change in approach in how we finance the budget of the EU. For the first time ever, the Commission has been given the go-ahead to raise finance from the markets to fund the operational programmes.
This is new territory but these monies will have to be repaid, how should we do this?
These are matters of concern for all member states but particularly for countries like Ireland that are now net contributors as a result of our strong economy. These are important issues that will form a part of how we shape our future.
Climate change is another issue that affects us all. The battle against climate change and the resulting damage is now urgent. Challenging reduction targets have been adopted to ensure a climate-neutral continent by 2050. But how do we get to that point in a manner that is fair and does not overburden any one sector of society?
Shaping foreign policy will be a focus for the Conference. When we joined the EEC it was to further our foreign policy aims, to protect our national interest in both political and economic terms and to pursue our quest to preserve peace in the world, protect human rights and achieve a more equitable balance between the industrialised and developing countries.
I believe that these foreign policy objectives are still as relevant today.
I am looking forward to discussing this topic as part of the Conference.
These are just some of the issues and topics that will be discussed as part of the Conference. We have a lot to discuss and you can play your part in that.
“The future is in your hands” has been chosen as the theme for the conference and “make your voice heard” is the call to action. I would encourage everyone to get involved in this process and make your voice heard.
This platform can be used to submit ideas for the Conference on the Future of Europe: futureu.europa.eu