, by Jacopo Barbati


Today, like every 9th of May since 1985, Europe Day was celebrated. But this edition had major news: the presentation, by the Presidents of the European Parliament (Roberta Metsola), European Commission (Ursula von der Leyen) and Council of the EU (Emmanuel Macron in representation of France, currently holding the rotating presidency of the institution) of the results of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

The almost-350-page document summarizes approximately 2 years of discussions held by thousands of European citizens, both in European and national events as well as on the designed online platform. The final recommendations by the plenary session were condensed into 49 proposals, many of them advocating for changes in the decision-making processes of the EU in order for it to be more incisive and decisive when needed. In the 49 proposals, a direct call for transitioning to a “qualified majority” decision system in the Council [1] is explicitly expressed 4 times, including clearly:

All issues decided by way of unanimity should be decided by way of a qualified majority. The only exceptions should be the admission of new membership to the EU and changes to the fundamental principles of the EU as stated in Art. 2 TEU and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. (proposal 39, point 1)

Of course, in order to achieve such a result or similar ones, the current treaties should be changed. And indeed, in the proposals, the expression “treaty change[s]” is explicitly used 2 times, plus some other occurrences that came out from the Citizens’ Panels.

The possibility of changing the treaties with regards to transitioning towards a qualified majority was also underlined by both von der Leyen and Macron today in their addresses and by Mario Draghi, Prime Minister of Italy, during his speech to the European Parliament on the 3rd of May, when he declared that the EU should follow the path of a “ideal and pragmatic federalism”.

All good, then? Of course not. Later today, 13 Member States [2] felt the urge to let everyone know that, although they “welcome the ideas and proposals that the citizens have put forward” and that “the ideas presented by citizens at the Conference should speak for themselves and deserve a serious follow-up”, they also “recall that Treaty change has never been a purpose of the Conference” and that they “do not support unconsidered and premature attempts to launch a process towards Treaty change”. [3]

Some considerations may arise from this:

  • it is not coherent to state that the results of the Conference are welcome and that the citizens’ ideas should be followed up, and then immediately after declare that changes to the Treaties are out of discussion when part of the Conference results are clearly calling for changes to the Treaties;
  • launching a process now towards Treaty change is neither “unconsidered” nor “premature”. The last major update of the Treaties was designed 15 years ago, with the Lisbon Treaty, signed in 2009 and come into force in 2009. In the meantime:
    • there was a major economic crisis with some Members States on the brink of bankruptcy and the imposition of austerity measures that undermined relations and confidence in the EU, favoring the rise of euroscepticism;
    • one Member State decided to leave the Union, an unprecedented move that surely cannot be seen as a sign of a healthy Union;
    • some Member States were considered to have violated fundamental freedom rights and no decisive actions were taken;
    • the popular demand for decisive actions against climate change arose;
    • a pandemic broke out, and the Member States lost weeks before heading towards a single approach;
    • a war broke out at the borders of the Union, finding it underprepared and divided - once again - with regards to military and energetic policies;
  • the above mentioned points were clearly interpreted by the citizens who participated in the Conference as a sign of an EU that is weak and unable to answer citizens’ concerns with the current institutional asset. The best actions that were taken (e.g. the Next Generation EU recovery plan funded also via EU-issued bonds) were extra-ordinary practice. The demand for Treaties change is anything but “unconsidered” or “premature”.

The good news is that, given the quick and vehement reaction of those 13 Member States (that would have been nice to see in other contexts as well!), we can assume that the other 14 were surely asked, but decided not to, sign this “non-paper” - therefore, they should not be against the popular demand of Treaties change and could already start to work on that. Time will tell; and if the idea is good, its strength will prevail.

What a way to celebrate Europe Day!


[1Currently on a majority of fields unanimity is required.

[2Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden

[3The full text of the declaration on Twitter’s account of the Danish representation at the European Union:

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