The Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) comes at a time where citizens’ confidence in national governments and, by consequence, in European institutions is constantly decreasing. Moreover, the current health crisis is turning into a democratic crisis dividing citizens and spreading hate speech from all sides. Social movements are evolving and citizens’ engagement is on the rise, and yet they remain unheard. The CoFoE is a crucial democratic exercise that the Lifelong Learning Platform welcomes: in times of struggle, it is an important reminder that active citizenship and participation in political life should not be limited to elections, but are rather continually exercised at different levels and times. It can help bring Europe closer to its citizens – and vice versa.
At the same time, LLLP holds that the Conference can substantially contribute to an ongoing process of discussing the very essence of civil dialogue mechanisms in the EU and Member States. The need for such a structured dialogue cannot be questioned – as it is an enabler of basic democratic rights – but the efficacy and real impact of such mechanisms should be the object of discussion. The time of top-down policy and decision-making is coming to an end and we must prepare for new ways of deliberating, with citizens at the heart.