Today, Friday 8 October, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European Affairs, Sophie Wilmès kicked off the Belgian section of the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) – a series of Belgian events that will take place throughout the autumn – at an opening event in the presence of European Commissioner, Didier Reynders.

As a founding member of the European Union, an established supporter of the European project and the seat of the European institutions, it is very important for Belgium that its citizens can actively contribute to the European policies that have a significant impact on their lives, and that they maintain their confidence in the European project. This is why our country wishes to make an active contribution to the conference.

As a reminder: the CoFoE was launched on 9 May of this year and will end in April next year. It is falls under the authority of the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission, which co-chair it. The CoFoE wants to hear the concerns and priorities of as many citizens as possible so that these can be taken into account in future public policies.

At the opening event, the Deputy Prime Minister presented the various initiatives that the federal government and the federated entities will organise over the coming weeks and months. As the COFEU is also a political priority for the European institutions, European Commissioner Didier Reynders explained the general framework and the ambitions.

Central to the Belgian component are citizens’ panels that will be held over three weekends in October and November in the Chamber, the Senate and the Egmont Palace. Fifty citizens drawn at random from all our country’s linguistic communities will debate and make recommendations on citizen participation in European democracy, which is one of the nine themes that the Conference on the Future of Europe has been called upon to address.

Following the opening speeches, some 150 citizens have already taken part in a debate on Europe’s place in the world, together with a panel of experts. Other topics will be covered by other FPSs and federated entities.

The results of each of these events will be presented at the three plenary sessions of the Conference on the Future of Europe, which take place in Strasbourg in October 2021, December 2021 and February 2022. Belgium will be represented by the Minister of European Affairs, Sophie Wilmès, a Minister from the federated entities and a Belgian citizen.

All the recommendations and proposals made during the various events will also be presented on the digital platform set up by the European Union. This digital platform is a new experiment aimed at enhancing our democratic practices and allowing greater citizen participation alongside traditional democratic tools. The platform allows individuals to log on and propose their ideas on various European policies or the functioning of the European Union. The European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission are committed to following up on these recommendations.

Sophie Wilmès: “Europe protects our fundamental values and freedoms. It has an impact on our daily lives that should not be underestimated. Europe ensures the safety of our products and food, allows us to pay with the same currency everywhere, gives us jobs through the single market, is in charge of our vaccines and makes major investments in research and the industries of the future. It ensures freedom of movement in a Union where we have lived in peace for 70 years. Since Europe is so crucial to our lives here in Belgium, it is important that our citizens are involved in the decisions that are taken; that their questions, concerns and aspirations are heard and understood. And that together we build the future of our Union.”