Have your say on the future of the EU!
Just over two years ago, the European Parliament proposed the establishment of a citizens’ assembly, now known as the Conference on the Future of Europe (COFEU). Its purpose is to look at the European Union, its institutions, its values and its processes and to check that they are fit for purpose and capable of delivering on its commitments to our citizens.
Similar to Ireland’s own successful Citizens Assemblies, the COFEU brings together citizens, elected representatives and civil society leaders to debate key issues affecting our Union, and then, to propose changes to how the EU works and operates.
Meeting virtually, and recently in person in Strasbourg, delegates are discussing a wide range of topics. Debates are ongoing on whether the EU needs more power to act on issues in public health, such as the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic, to how the Union should deal with Member States that breach the basic rules and values that underpin the European Union, to the existential threat of climate change.
Moreover and just as importantly, thousands of events are being organised across the continent, including in Ireland, to ensure that decision makers both hear and listen to the voices and ideas of citizens.
For myself, as an Ireland South MEP, I am organising events in Limerick and Cork to hear what our young people in Transition Year think about the future of the European Union. In 2022, I will also organise events in South Leinster to hear the views of local residents.
Everyone can have his or her opinions heard. The Conference organisers have launched a very interactive and interesting website where citizens can submit their ideas as to how they want to see the EU operate into the future. I would encourage everyone to visit the website, and submit your ideas.
My own personal view is that we should try to make the existing provisions of the EU Treaties work to their fullest before we propose new changes. In Ireland, we know how hard it can be to win referenda so it should be a last resort.
However, I am open to giving the EU new powers - especially when it comes to protecting citizens from health emergencies, the climate crisis and indeed, for example, cyber-terrorism. We saw how damaging a cyber-attack can be only a few months ago when a cyber-attack shut down the HSE.
As a small Member State, it is essential that all of us play our part in shaping the future of the European Union. Now is the time to share your ideas and opinions and ensure that Irish voices are heard by decision makers. Get involved, and make sure they hear you.
Billy Kelleher is a Member of the European Parliament for Ireland South representing Fianna Fáil and Renew Europe.
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