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France to launch bottom-up consultation for European reform – by Cécile Barbière

Emmanuel Macron’s ambitious plan, announced during his presidential campaign, could take shape from May 2018, said a parliamentary report presented on Thursday (7 December) by Valérie Gomez-Bassac (La Republique En Marche) and Michel Herbillon (Les Republicains).

“We are aware of the difficulty of the process, but we were elected with a clear European mandate,” said Sabine Thillaye, chair of the European Affairs Committee in the French Parliament.

According to the report, the mobilisation of citizens could be a two-step process. First a vast online consultation, which would ask citizens some generic questions about the future of Europe. This would be followed by local debates in the interested member states.

Among the questions that would be submitted to the citizens, the deputies listed very general topics:

    What are the values of Europe?
    What do you expect from Europe in your daily life?
    What change do you expect from Europe?

“We propose online consultations ahead of physical debates because we have to change the scale to reach more citizens,” said Michel Herbillon.

These general questions could be supplemented by some more specific issues, depending on the country. In each state, a national steering committee would then trace the result of the debates to “a committee of European elders”, led by the European institutions, “which has the technical expertise and would guarantee a certain neutrality” explained Michel Herbillon.

This centralised committee would be responsible for distilling the main priorities defined by the citizen process.

To develop this methodology, MPs conducted hearings in Germany, Italy, Hungary, Ireland, and Estonia: “We were welcomed, although in some countries, such as Poland and Hungary, there may be some reluctance. But democratic conventions cannot afford to shut off Europe’s critics. We must not marginalise critical states in this process,” said Michel Herbillon.

To formalize the idea, the French representatives imagined that heads of state and government could adopt a declaration on the sidelines of a European summit, with a charter defining the main principles of these democratic conventions.

“Emmanuel Macron has already discussed with Angela Merkel,” said Herbillon, who hopes to see the subject on the table at the European Council in March 20

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