Strasbourg/Bratislava, November 30 (TASR) – The participants in the second citizens panel of the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) were able to say clearly and intelligibly what kind of Europe they want, stressing the importance of adherence to the rule of law, TASR has been told by Stefan Urbanek, a participant in a panel, which met for the second time in mid-November.
Urbanek said that he was contacted to attend the panel by phone based on random selection. He could have chosen among four panels that are a part of CoFoE.
“As I have long been dealing with issues of suppressing and minimizing corruption and protecting the EU’s financial interests, I chose the second panel focusing on European democracy and values, rights, the rule of law and security,” he said.
The first meeting of this panel took place at the European Parliament in Strasbourg in mid-September. In November (November 12-14), the participants met via video conference.
“At both meetings, we had an opportunity to discuss issues related to EU values, rights and the rule of law directly with citizens from all over the EU,” said Urbanek.
“I find it particularly valuable that the participants in the citizens panel – unlike politicians nominated by political parties or narrow lobby groups – were able to express clearly and comprehensibly, without obfuscation, phrases and clichés, what kind of Europe they want,” he said.
According to him, the participants emphasised that each member state must meet the criteria of the rule of law and adhere to the set rules.
“The discussions showed that understanding of European values, the order of their importance and the interpretation of segments of the rule of law in individual member states differ,” said Urbanek, adding that each member state has “its own preferences” in the field of values.
The discussion also indicated that the EU should provide impetus but should not force a monotony of opinions, said Urbanek. “It’s important to communicate what the common values of the EU are, but without imposing uniformity of opinion,” he said. “It should be borne in mind that what matters is what the citizens of the Union want and not what EU institutions and opinion lobbyists want,” he added.
Urbanek would welcome it if much more attention in discussions was paid to fighting corruption and its devastating effects on the rule of law. Among other areas he mentioned justice and security, as well as equal opportunities and gender equality.
Each of the four CoFoE citizens panels will meet three times between September 2021 and January 2022. Their recommendations will be included in the final report to be prepared by the conference’s executive board.