Last week, Culture Action Europe joined over 15 civil society organisations (CSOs) in co-signing an open letter launched by Civil Society Europe (CSE) calling on Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to adopt the Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) Committee’s report on proposals of the European Parliament for the amendment of the EU Treaties during the Plenary session on the week of 20 November.
Many CSOs actively participated in the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) from 2021 to 2022, and since then, CSE has been following up on the CoFoE conclusions’ implementation and continuously supporting civil society and citizens’ participation in EU democracy. Under the framework of the Amplify project, Culture Action Europe also coordinated the submission of recommendations to the CoFoE platform, as a result of a series of community listening sessions with underrepresented voices in the cultural sector organised locally across 12 European countries. On 9 May 2022 the CoFoE finished its work and presented its conclusions, containing 49 proposals and 326 measures, of which several, noted the European Parliament, require amendments to the Treaties.
Albeit not with the strong language that cultural stakeholders would have hoped for, culture did make it to the final CoFoE recommendations, where the Conference members ask – among other things – for strengthening existing measures supporting culture at EU level, such as Creative Europe, the New European Bauhaus and the European Capitals of Culture. In addition, they demand the development of future-proof education and life-long learning in Europe, including STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Maths) practices, and endorse the EU-wide call to improve working conditions of cultural workers. In particular, the Conference asks that Member States, with the support of the EU, should “ensure that cultural professionals are sufficiently protected at EU level, particularly in any future crises, by adopting a legal statute at European level”, as recommendation 48.5 reads. In line with this ongoing monitoring of the representation of the arts and culture in citizen participation at the European level, CAE signs the open letter presented by CSE.
The AFCO report referenced in the open letter follows Parliament’s resolution on 9 June 2022 on the call for a Convention for the revision of the Treaties which reiterates Parliament’s call for the amendment of the Treaties and call on the Council to immediately and without deliberation submit Parliament’s proposals to the European Council. Furthermore, it calls on the European Council to convene a Convention as soon as possible. As background, the current Treaties were enforced on 1 December 2009. Since then, the EU has faced a number of unprecedented challenges and crises, most notably Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. The proposals in the report aim to support the Union’s capacity to act and strengthen its democratic legitimacy and accountability.
In the open letter, CSOs call on EU Member States, through the European Council, to convene a Convention to revise the EU Treaties. Civil society organisations, including those in the candidate countries, ask to be invited as participants to such a Convention and be involved in all phases of the latter’s preparation, including the agenda-setting phase and the preparatory meetings on the draft of the Treaty changes.
Signatories of the letter agree that MEPs and Member States should strengthen the AFCO report’s proposals concerning democracy, civil dialogue (i.e. dialogue between institutions and CSOs) and fundamental rights, as has been called for by CSOs across the EU. This can be achieved by making ambitious proposals to better and fully include CSOs and citizens in EU policy- and decision-making processes, including when it comes to reforming the EU Treaties. Such ambitious proposals would also guarantee the respect and implementation of fundamental rights.
The signatories also state that treaty change should advance in parallel with enlargement processes to make sure to keep the reform momentum both in the EU and in pre-accession countries. Reforms on both sides are key to prepare the future enlarged EU for the challenges of today and tomorrow. At this moment in time, the priority is for the AFCO Committee’s report to be adopted in Plenary and for the European Council to trigger Article 48 of the Treaty on the European Union. After that, we alongside many CSOs, will gladly work with stakeholders to put forward deeply needed and more ambitious reforms on democracy, civil dialogue and fundamental rights.