Environmental education in EU schools and the migration crisis were high on the agenda of the proposals suggested by citizens during the last two panels of the Conference on the future of Europe .
The conference is the EU’s deliberative democracy experience, where 800 citizens randomly selected to discuss, debate and make recommendations to lawmakers. Divided into four thematic panels, 80 elected ambassadors will present their recommendations to MEPs in Strasbourg from December 17 to 18 and from January 21 to 22.
In the third panel, participants discussed reducing consumption and implementing renewable energies to replace non-renewable resources. They spoke of the urgent need to change the way we live and to contain the climate crisis. This change can only happen if environmental sustainability is taught in schools, participants said.
“It can be useful to have a topic dedicated to environmental education. However, I believe that environmental education is also a cross-cutting issue that can affect different disciplines, ”Tiziana Sallusti, high school principal at Liceo Terenzio Mamiani in Rome, told EURACTIV.
She added: “We have to help change the behavior of the community to protect the environment. In this sense, we have launched various projects in our school to make students responsible for the sustainability of school consumption ”.
European deputy Michaela Šojdrová (EPP, CZ), member of the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT), told EURACTIV that she welcomes the idea. However, she stressed, “we have to respect the competence of the Member States. It is up to them to integrate these questions into the school curriculum with the support of the EU ”.
Unsurprisingly, migration has also been a hot topic amid the crisis in the EU and along its eastern borders.
The fourth panel discussed the granting of more powers to Frontex and the establishment of a relocation system across Europe. The human rights of immigrants were also high on the agenda and were positioned as a priority by the participants.
The participants also considered that in order to facilitate the European management of foreign and migration policy, the need for a unanimous vote in the Council is an important obstacle. But to overcome this problem and examine the citizens’ proposal, several treaties would have to be re-examined for discussion, which the Commission wishes to avoid.
To avoid a situation where citizens’ proposals are not addressed, deliberative democracy expert Jonathan Moskovic told EURACTIV that “If the EU does not have the competence to deal with a recommendation, Member States must follow up ”. In this sense, all citizens’ proposals will be heard.
An EP source previously confirmed to EURACTIV that there are mechanisms to ensure that every voice is heard, Member States could consider implementation processes as soon as possible. This would prevent conference participants from thinking that the EU’s first experiment in deliberative democracy did not go as well as expected.
The whole process should be evaluated by European Commission Presidents Ursula von der Leyen, European Council Charles Michel and European Parliament David Sassoli. This will include a review of every step, from submissions to mmultilingual digital Platform up to the stage of proposals are presented to Parliament.
[Edited by Alice Taylor]