On Wednesday, Members of the European Parliament overwhelmingly adopted a resolution calling for the EU Treaty changes to implement the changes proposed by EU citizens through the year-long Conference on the Future of Europe initiative.
At its final session at the end of April, the citizens’ assembly adopted 49 proposals of more than 300 measures for changes to increase transparency, democracy and accountability in how the EU works and operates.
Among a broad range of topics, the citizens’ Conference had called on EU leaders to phase out fossil fuels and substantially shift towards renewable energy, establish a fundamental right for all EU citizens to health care, entrust the European Parliament with the right of legislative initiative, improve education on environmental issues, digital technologies, soft skills and EU values, and abolish the need for unanimity in the Council on questions of foreign policy.
In its resolution, which was adopted by 467 to 141 votes with 27 abstentions, MEPs broadly echoed the wishes of the Conference on the Future of Europe and called on the Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs to “prepare proposals to reform the EU Treaties, which would happen through a Convention in line with Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union.”
Yet, while the citizens’ panel and the European Parliament may broadly be in favour of a closer Union and substantial changes to the EU’s basic Treaties, the final decision ultimately lies with the EU’s 27 Prime Ministers and Presidents in the European Council – the institution with most to lose from any substantial changes to the EU’s modus operandi.
The call for abolishing unanimity alone on foreign policy questions alone, is a complicated red line matter for many Member States. On the hand, they worry they might accidently be dragged into political, economic, or even military conflicts. On the other hand, they also recognize the broad frustration of increasingly being unable to even pass joint statements of condemnation, such when Hungary blocked the EU from calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Palestine conflict or from speaking out against China over its democratic clampdown in Hong Kong.
Following this week’s resolution and the official handover ceremony for the Conference’s final report on Europe Day (9 May), the European Parliament and Member States will assess the recommendations and decide on the next steps. Whether Treaty change(s) is included remains both to be seen and a likely dependent on who sits in the European Council chairs. Victor Orban, for one, is unlikely to vote for any proposal threating his vetoes.