Press Statement: “We won’t allow this Conference to be just another talking shop”

JEF Europe: “We won’t allow this Conference to be just another talking shop”
Brussels, 09.03.2020

Key points:

  • We welcome the commitment to making the Conference a citizens-focused process, with an explicit mention of young people and civil society.
  • We also welcome the inclusion of a structured feedback mechanism between citizens’ recommendations and the Conference, as we proposed with 12 other civil society organisations.
  • We are concerned that a 9-month long Conference risks being reduced to a talking shop.
  • We urge all Europeans to work within the Conference framework until it delivers on all their expectations, past the stated deadline if necessary.
  • We remain committed to a federal Europe and a genuine European Constitution. The Conference can be a key step towards this goal.

We’ve been waiting for it for more than a year, and it finally arrived: not quite Santa Claus with a bag full of presents, but the Joint Declaration laying out the foundations of the Conference on the Future of Europe

It may look like the Grinch didn’t just steal Christmas, but also much of the initial ambition for the Conference. Nonetheless, after a year of dragged out  negotiations, deadlocks and misfires, we’re happy to see some positive elements maintained in the Joint Declaration. There is a commitment to implementing the Conference as a citizens-focused, bottom-up effort, explicitly including young people and civil society. And there is recognition that citizens’ contributions must have an actual impact on the Conference, through a proper feedback mechanism, as we proposed first in December 2019, an approach later endorsed by both the European Parliament and the Commission

Nevertheless, challenges remain. The Conference is supposed to be on the Future of Europe, yet the Declaration does not mention at all the participation of non-EU citizens, not even those from countries which are candidates or potential candidates to become members  of the Union. Even more striking seems to be the fact that the Conference will only last around 9 months. We have – yet again – national electoral concerns driving the European agenda. As federalists, we consider the Spring 2022 closing date little more than a suggestion. We urge citizens, civil society and decision-makers to continue working within the framework of the Conference past that deadline, and until it delivers on citizens’ expectations. We will not allow the Conference to be just another talking shop!

Crisis after crisis, we run around in circles on how Europe – the EU – is not fit for the 21st century. It needs change. The change Europe needs, however, is about assigning the right competences to the “federal” European level – Health Union and Fiscal Union, first and foremost – which cannot happen without, at a minimum, Treaty change. That may seem scary to some, but the truth is that the democratic deficit is wider than ever. Decision-makers need to stop with their poor attempts at powdering Europe’s nose with cosmetic policy changes. We need to affirm the rights and duties of European citizens. We need a Constituent Assembly to draft a federal European Constitution – and as JEF, we remain committed to using the Conference as a stepping stone to achieving this goal.

Make no mistake: this debate is much larger than any of our narrow interests, and the outcome of the Conference will feed into the campaign of the 2024 EU elections. European parties will debate on the basis of different, possibly opposing views on the Future of Europe. As JEF, we will continue to play an active role in these debates with innovative ideas for making Europe more united and democratic. The Conference on the Future of Europe is what we make of it, whether or not it’s written in a Joint Declaration.


The Presidents of the European Parliament, European Commission and Council of the EU are expected to co-sign the Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe on 10 March 2021. The Declaration provides the political basis for the Conference, which is to be launched on 9 May 2021 and comprise large-scale consultations across the continent on reforming the EU and its policies. CoFoE was supposed to start on 9 May 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID19 pandemic and the lack of interinstitutional agreement on its governance and level of ambition.

About JEF Europe
The Young European Federalists (JEF) Europe is a non-partisan youth NGO with 10,000  members active in over 30 countries. The organisation strives towards a federal Europe based on the principles of democracy and subsidiarity as well as respect for human rights. JEF promotes true European Citizenship, and works towards more active participation of young people in democratic life. While the umbrella organisation JEF Europe was founded in 1972, its sections have been operating continuously since the end of the Second World War, making it the oldest pro-European and only federalist youth organisation.

JEF on similar topics

Contact information
Leonie Martin, President
Young European Federalists
Rue d’Arlon 53, 1040 Brussels