Leaders from the EU Parliament’s European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group have voiced concerns over the year-long initiative to interact more closely with voters. It was launched today by arch-federalist MEP Guy Verhofstadt, Croatian commissioner Dubravka Suica and Portuguese minister Ana Paula Zacarias. They introduced a digital platform to canvas European citizens and trigger a discussion over the bloc’s post-Brexit future.
But ECR chief Ryszard Legutko warned that the process is just a staging post for ardent federalists and “self-appointed leaders”.
The senior Polish MEP said: “We fear that this process deliberately aims to undermine the nation-state democracies with the opinions of self-appointed leaders and federalist activists.
“At best, it will be a random and unrepresentative mix of voices that has no deeper legitimacy or meaning. There is a danger that it will result in a big Tohu wa-bohu that leaves everyone disappointed or at odds.”
He questioned whether the conference, which aims to canvas the opinion of voters for suggesting a number of reforms to EU leaders, is value for money.
Mr Legutko said: “The organisers can’t even say how much the Conference will cost. They don’t have a clear timeframe, and they don’t know what to do with the results.
“The only thing they know is that the process must be over in one year – when Mr Macron takes over the Council presidency. That’s very little information from those who have the large-scale federalist ambitions of building a European Super State.”
His colleague Raffaele Fitto added: “We do not believe that this initiative that attempts to create a shortcut for pro-European activists by overriding the national representative democracies can be useful.”
And Zdzislaw Krasnodebski, who represents the ECR on the Conference’s board, said questioned whether the scheme will be a genuinely democratic exercise.
The Polish MEP said: “It is vital that we don’t forget what democracy really means. Democracy needs a cultural community and procedures that are clear and fair.
“Neither is the case here. This conference looks more like a public consultation rather than a genuine democratic exercise. We should not forget that the only functioning democracy is representative democracy.
“We need to defend our national competencies against experimentation from Brussels. We must defend democracy and the legacy of Europe.”
Launching the scheme, Mr Verhofstadt announced a digital platform that will be at the heart of the conference.
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European Parliament president, David Sassoli, said: “The platform represents a key tool to allow citizens to participate and have a say on the Future of Europe. We must be certain that their voices will be heard and that they have a role in the decision-making, regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“European democracy, of the representative and participatory kind, will continue to function no matter what because our shared future demands it.”
The conference will officially launch on Europe day, May 9.