European citizens complain about politicians in debate about EU future

Several hundred European citizens participating in a series of conferences on the future of the European Union are disappointed at the lack of interest from MEPs. More than half of MEPs do not show up, or leave the meeting immediately after making pre-prepared statements.

The CoFoE conference is a democracy experiment in which citizens participate in discussions on modernization of the European Union. The plenary consists of citizens, representatives of civil society and many national and European politicians.

In a letter, citizens state that it is not possible "to have a constructive debate if the members are not in the room". Citizens also indicated that the politicians should be more involved in the process of the conference, as "the hall is getting emptier".

The letter states that almost all 108 participating citizens were usually present. Many of them have to take [days off] from work, school or university to do this. And we estimated that of the 341 professional politicians in the CoFoE process, about 90 were present.

Citizens urged politicians to be more present at the next next meeting session, to be held this weekend in Strasbourg.

It is not the first time that citizens have complained about the behavior of the EU politicians. At a meeting in early March, some citizens noted that EU politicians often gave their own twist and interpretation to the 

Friday is the penultimate plenary session of the Conference on the Future of Europe. Dutch minister Wobke Hoekstra will present the results of the Dutch civil dialogue there. The Netherlands is one of the few EU countries that has held its own conference with citizens on the modernization of the EU. 

As with the EU politicians, the Dutch government will not adopt the recommendations of the citizens, but will include it in its own input. Hoekstra will also speak with the Dutch youth representative, and with one of the Dutch who participated in the citizen panels.

The outcomes of the European and national citizens' panels are discussed in plenary sessions of the Conference on the Future of Europe. On “Europe Day” 9 May, a final report will be presented to the presidency: the European Parliament, the Council of Ministers and the European Commission.

Finally, on the basis of the final report, the EU institutions consider how they can give substance to the input of the EU citizens.