Jun 06, 2022 Conferences

In a closing ceremony in Strasbourg on May 9, President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola, on behalf of the Council Presidency, President Emmanuel Macron, and President ofthe European Commission Ursula von der Leyen received the final Report on the outcome of the Conference.

In her speech, President Metsola spoke about the reality of a gap which exists between what people expect and what the European Union is able to provide particularly in the areas of health, energy and security. She also stressed that the future of Europe is tied to the future of Ukraine.

President Von der Leyen said, the unthinkable has returned to Europe. Russia’s flagrant aggression to redraw maps and to rewrite even the most tragic parts of our history have reminded us of the dangers of losing our grip on both our past and our future. A vision of Europe that delivers on what matters most, that helps to make everyday life better on every day priorities, such as the clean air and the food we eat, the education for our children and the homes we provide them. We want a Europe that has a stronger capacity to activate and uphold its values and the rule of law, a Europe that is able to provide for itself, from energy to food, from materials to medicines, from digital chips to green technologies. We want to live in a Europe that delivers unique social protections and that we can do just that with our powers even amidst the Covid pandemic or the war in Ukraine. The EU procured vaccines for citizens across Europe and even to Africa, or effectively helped the economies after the worst of the pandemic by NextGenerationEU.

The Union set an ambitious and legally binding path to climate neutrality, or making the rules in the digital world, we support small businesses not to lay off their staff during the pandemic. So that means accelerating negotiations on the Fit for 55 Package so that we can boost renewable energies, that we can save energy and finally free ourselves off fossil fuels.  We want to ensure that our proposal on minimum wages becomes law for all. She forecasted that next weeksand months, the EU will bring out proposals for example restoring nature, or decreasing waste from packaging, or banning products made by forced labour from entering the European market. However there is a need to go further, for example unanimity voting in some key areas impedes rapid action when the EU wants to be able to move faster.

She emphasized the need to improve the way our democracy works. The Conference of the Future of Europe has told us where you want this Europe to go either by using the full limits of what we can do within the Treaties, or by changing theTreaties if need be. Democracy does not end with elections, conferences or conventions. It needs to be continuously worked on, whether debating biodiversity in Varna, gender-based violence in Lisbon, or democracy and subsidiarity in Budapest. She said her heart and the mind is with the people of Kyiv and Kharkiv, of Odessa and Mariupol. Interestingly mentioned that she had a videoconference with President Zelensky  who handed over the answers to the questionnaire of the Commission for the accession process he has applied to. Finally Ursula Von der Layen gave a very special message to Ukrainian people saying „the future of Europe is also your future”.

She ended her speech with this exclamation: Slava Ukraini. Long live Europe.


In his speech President Macron said that we have gone through crises collectively in recent years and Europe has changed, but  this development must be continued and ensure that the EU lives up to the expectations of its citizens.The Conference on the Future of Europe is a unique exercise in our continent. The conclusion is a very rich source of proposals, as President Ursula von der Leyen said: “Democracy, peace, individual and economic freedom. A new,effective and more democratic Europe is possible”. A Europe that is sovereign and is capable of acting, as citizens clearly expect. There is really no time to waste. We need to honour the outcome of the Conference and implement its conclusions as soon as possible. ”The three EU institutions will now examine how to follow up effectively on these proposals in accordance with the Treaties”.

A feedback event will take place to update citizens in autumn 2022.The Plenary Conclusions were adopted during the May 5/6COFOE Plenary without changes in the final report, which is very important since it shows most of the priorities of ETUC and includes some of FERPA initiatives suggested in the benefit of the European elders and pensioners. The European Parliament also adopted a Resolution on the follow-up to the Conference underlining the need to deal with the COFOE proposals and for the convening of a Convention by activating the procedure for the revision of the Treaties provided for in Article 48 of the Treaty on European Union. The Resolution includes the call for a right of legislative initiative for the European Parliament and the abolition of unanimity in the Council and the need for a shift towards a sustainable, inclusive growth model with the full implementation of European Pillar of Social Rights and the Social Progress Protocol, which was one of the main aspirations of ETUC.

The COFOE plenary conclusions includes for us, FERPA,  very important recommendations for ensuring a just and fair transition, supporting particularly the vulnerable citizens, who face the greatest challenges in transitioning towards climate neutrality and who are already suffering from increasing energy prices because of energy dependency.S imilarly investing in the health systems ensures that healthcare providers respect the principles of full accessibility,affordability and quality of services, meanwhile issuing strong recommendations to the Member States to invest in effective, accessible, affordable, high-quality and resilient health systems.

Similarly remarkable the call to establish minimum healthcare standards at EU level, covering also prevention and accessibility as well as proximity of care, and provide support to achieve these standards. The conclusions propose to reduce inequalities, fight social exclusion and tackle poverty, recognising the need to put in place a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy that could include — beside a reinforced Child Guarantee and Youth Guarantee — the introduction of minimum wages, a common EU framework for minimum income schemes and decent social housing.

There is a need to ensure the full implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, at EU, national, regional and local level in the area of “social protection and inclusion” with due regard for respective competences and the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality and to include a Social Progress Protocol in the Treaties. All of these proposals coincide with the proposals and demands of FERPA. Especially important point is 15(7) coinciding with FERPA’s demand in preventing old age poverty by introducing minimum pensions. Such minimum levels would need to take account of the living standard in the respective Member State. Pont 15(8) describes the guaranteeing of appropriate social and health care to older persons in both community-based as well as residential care. Equally, measures need to take account of both care receivers and caregivers. It also recommends taking action for harmonizing the living conditions across the EU and improve EU citizens’ socio-economic quality of life.  The ETUC’s proposal can be recognized in 41(4): „Promoting upwards convergence on working conditions” harmoniously throughout the EU to combat inequalities of working conditions and to ensure an efficient labour migration policy and workers’ rights. In this context, reinforce the role of trade unions at national and transnational level, in cooperation with employers’ organisations is also in the Report. The conventional macroeconomic indicators are complemented in order to address the European priorities such as the European Green Deal or the European Pillar of Social Rights and to better reflect the ecological and digital transitions and the wellbeing of people. The final Report points „to the needs of the social and economic impact of the war against Ukraine and the link between the EU economic governance with the new geopolitical context and by strengthening its EU budget through new own resources”. Proposals indicate to move away taxation from citizens and SMEs and target tax evaders, big polluters and by taxing the digital giants. Once FERPA had it on the ExCo agenda dealing with taxes in the same way. Lucky resemblance!

The Report refers many times to the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which should be integrated in the economic governance framework and the European semester process. The EU could support and complement the policies of Member States among others by proposing a common framework for minimum incomes to ensure that nobody is left behind. These actions should be carried out also in the framework of the full implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and its Action Plan. It was also interesting to notice that according to the French President, reforming the European treaties is a matter of course. He approved the proposal of the Parliament to convene a Convention for defining in advance the final objective of such an initiative, as the end of unanimity in the EU Council for “major public policies”, the clarification of the EU’sobjectives as growth, full employment, climate change, social justice, the strengthening of democratic control and a right of initiative for the European Parliament.

Mr Macron has spoken in favour to integrate further in certain policy areas through ‘enhanced cooperation’, as was the case with the creation of € and the Schengen area of free movement of people. As Macron said, the aim is not to exclude, but to create “a ripple effect”.  Implementing the proposals that go to the basics of the EU’s functioning will not be easy. Thirteen Member States warn against such hasty reaction (including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark,Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia and Sweden )  warned against rushing, they wanted to studymore of such institutional reform arguing that Treaty change has never been a purpose of the Conference. They do not exclude any options at this stage, but do not support unconsidered and premature attempts to launch a process towards Treaty change.

The release of the COFOE final report was preceded by a series of two-year intensive hearings that took place on several platforms, committee levels and plenary sessions. The FERPA proposals were forwarded by the ETUC delegation, and was also supported by FERPA members in their answers to the conference call. Some of these have been fortunately included in the final document, that will be of great help to our further work, what we are demanding from the governments of our Member States, to improve the living conditions and incomes of Europe’s elderly and pensioners and to reduce poverty.

In conclusion, COFOE provided also a high level support for further FERPA activity.

Budapest, May 16, 2022

By Lajos Mayer, President of FERPA.