A UNIQUE CHANCE TO DECIDE ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE UNION
Interview with Alin Mituța, Member of Renew Europe’s delegation to the Conference on the Future of Europe
Alin Mituta (37) is from Romania and has been serving as a Member of the European Parliament since 2020 representing USR PLUS. He previously served as Secretary of State and head of Prime Minister’s Cabinet in the Romanian Government and worked as a civil servant in EU institutions. He is a co-founder of PLUS party and of the RO100 civic movement, which preceded the creation of the party.
He holds degrees in European Affairs from the Institut d’études politiques de Paris, in Political Science from the Paris Nanterre University, as well as in International Relations and European Studies from the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration in Romania.
Q: Why did you decide to take part in the Conference Plenary?
A: For me, it was very important to see the Conference on the Future of Europe launched. It was a priority for me personally and for the whole USRPLUS delegation in the European Parliament. We have mentioned the idea of a consultation with the citizens in our electoral programme for the European elections of 2019. Therefore, I wanted to be a part of the Conference Plenary, to be able to contribute to the success of the Conference. I think that our key responsibility as political representatives is to make sure that we translate this endeavour into tangible reforms. By participating in the Conference Plenary I believe that I can help in this regard. It is both a great honour and a greater responsibility.
Q: Which topics will you be focusing on?
A: I will primarily focus on European Democracy. And here I have in mind a key reform that, if implemented, will bring the EU closer to its citizens, will make it more democratic. My constituents have always said that the EU is too ‘far’ and they do not feel that they can influence and even have a say on the EU’s policies and priorities.
The Joint Declaration on the Conference on the Future of Europe argues that European citizens must gain new opportunities to express themselves on the European stage. I agree. We need to think of ways for European citizens to be directly involved in the political life of the Union as often as possible, not just every 5 years when they vote. Therefore, the Conference on the Future of Europe should discuss mechanisms for the active and effective participation of citizens in setting the priorities of the European Union. Such a mechanism could be envisaged to be appended to the current consultation process leading to the establishment of the annual Work Programme of the Commission and the State of the Union address.
This mechanism could work on an annual basis, starting in the first months of each year with national citizens’ agoras that should prepare the priorities to be discussed in a transnational European Citizens Agora, which could be held on Europe Day each year. The priorities resulting from the European Citizens Agora would be presented to the EU institutions to feed into the consultation mechanism that leads to the establishment of the annual Work Programme of the Commission.
Furthermore, another topic of great interest for me will be health. One of the lessons of the pandemic is that the European Union must be equipped with an autonomous competence on health and a more consistent budget. The European Union needs competences to be able to directly support Member States in developing resilient national health systems to combat the financial burden of chronic diseases, such as cancer or cardiovascular disease. The creation of a truly European Network of Transplants and treatment of rare disease is also a key priority for me. We need a network that covers all Member States and protects all citizens.
Environment is very important as well, and the problem we have with the environment in one Member State does not remain only there, but it affects all Europeans. Deforestation, illegal transports of dangerous waste, water pollution with dangerous chemicals does not affect only a region or country, but affects us all. Therefore, the EU should have competences in dealing with such incidents, most of whom are with criminal intent. The environment is a key element of European heritage and it should be protected at the European level. Therefore, we propose to act together in dealing with criminal offences that affect the environment. We need a Green Prosecutor Office, which can work together with the European Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Moreover, we should ask ourselves what institutional reforms are needed to make the EU function more efficiently and timely. The Council is often stuck in making a quick decision, usually by the unanimity rule. We, therefore, need to consider whether, in certain areas where we need an EU rapid response capability, the unanimity rule in the Council could be replaced by that of the qualified majority voting.
Speaking of institutional reforms, the European Parliament should have, as all Parliaments do, the right of legislative initiative. What is more, the European Parliament should also have the possibility to discuss and pass a motion of no confidence with regard to one Member of the College of Commissioners, not in all the College of Commissioners, as it is the situation now.
Q: How would you convince your constituents to take part?
A: The Conference on the Future of Europe represents the first chance for Romania and notably for Romanian citizens to directly contribute to the way the European Union’s future directions are shaped. The European Union was created as a project of prosperity, peace and solidarity of Western countries. The European project grew primarily from the needs of the West. Due to the isolation behind the Iron Curtain, Romania and the other countries in the central and eastern part of the continent could join this project only decades later, and so far have not had the opportunity to voice their opinions directly on the major directions for the future.
We believe that the European Union is the most successful political project of the last century, but we are also aware that the European project is not perfect hence our full commitment to revitalise it. We are committed to having a successful Conference, a Conference that will have a real and lasting impact on the way the EU works and makes policy and legislation. If we can convince people that there is a chance to have a say on these topics I think they will take the opportunity to express themselves. We have to convince them that participating in the Conference is worthwhile, that their voices will be heard, and then they will speak.
Q: Renew Europe has initiated the idea of the Conference. What will be the Group’s priorities?
A: We have endorsed in a Group meeting, at the beginning of this month, a list of priorities of the whole Renew Europe Group for the Conference. I want to mention here, shortly, the need to reinforce our common European health policy and continue to build a European Health union with a strong focus on the One Health Approach, prevention and cross border cooperation. So, Health is an important topic on Renew Europe agenda as well, along with more EU competences in the protection of our environment for example.
Regarding EU values and democracy, we agreed that defending the rule of law and fundamental rights are key priorities. Moreover, having more transparency in the EU decision making process and reforming the EU elections by introducing transnational lists are very important to our Group.
There are many priorities that we want to put into the debate in this year-long process. However, this is a process where citizens have the main stage. We want to interact with them starting from these positions. We want to listen to them, and then have a dialogue that will benefit us all.
Q: Why is this milestone so important in EU’s history?
A: Because it is the first time that citizens are called to have such a direct say on the future of Europe. It never happened before. We previously had the European Convention at the beginning of the 2000s but citizens were not involved in the debates. They were only called to vote on the final proposal, the European Constitution, and we all remember how that worked, or rather did not work.
So, it is very important. However, it will only be a milestone if it has consequences, if at the end of it we will see something change at the EU level. If that does not happen, it will be a missed milestone, and probably one that we will never see happening in a long time.
Q: To you, the Conference will be a success if…
A: …if it attracts a large number of citizens in the debates. And secondly, if the whole process will have consequences on how the EU functions and interacts with its citizens. The two are rather mutually dependent. As I have previously mentioned, citizens will get involved if we manage to convince them that the whole exercise is worthwhile, it will have results. And if they are convinced of this, and get involved, then it will be very hard for any politician, EU institution or Member State to ignore the conclusions of the Conference.