Brussels, May 9 (EFE).- European leaders on the weekend called for drawing lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic to enhance European Union integration at the inauguration of the Conference on the Future of Europe held at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
French President Emmanuel Macron, European Parliament President David Sassoli, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa and the head of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, delivered speeches at the event.
Macron urged the EU to move faster to tackle crises such as the coronavirus and to address essential issues including research and investments.
He also called on the bloc to reduce its reliance on non-EU countries to protect its sovereignty and avoid internal splits The European Union should “massively” invest to “guarantee the protection of our model,” he added.
More than a year into the pandemic, “It’s much clearer to us where the European Union is strong and where we’re weak and what we could improve,” Sassoli said.
For his part, Costa, whose country currently holds the EU rotating presidency, said that “times change, desires change” as he called for new steps to boost EU integration.
“European citizens want the EU to focus its efforts on a direct response to specific problems that citizens face,” he added.
Von der Leyen, meanwhile, said that “the point is that the European Union must be whatever Europeans want it to be,” going on to encourage young people to express themselves on issues of concern to them.
The multilingual digital platform, available in 24 languages, was activated on 19 April to ensure that citizens can contribute to the debate.
It is a digital forum that enables citizens across the EU to share and exchange their ideas and views through online events.
The EU plenary is holding its sessions in Strasbourg, where member-state representatives will meet in person or virtually, depending on health regulations, and its sessions will be public.
The gathering includes more than 400 members from all European institutions, national parliaments, the social sector and civil society, and the representation must respect gender balance and include young people.
The participants will address the recommendations of the panels of national and European citizens, as well as the contributions collected from the multilingual digital platform.
The executive council will make the decisions arising from the conference, which must be based on the recommendations of the plenary session and agreed to by all the institutions involved.
The conclusions of the conference are expected to be ready in the spring of 2022, coinciding with France’s turn in the EU rotating presidency and with the French presidential elections in which Macron is running for re-election.
The French leader, as co-president of the Conference at this time, together with Von der Leyen and Sassoli, will have to decide how to follow up on the proposals resulting from the conference.