On Europe Day, von der Leyen celebrates the next generation of Europeans, launches the Conference on the future of Europe

Source: European Commission (EC) i, published on Sunday, May 9 2021.

The Conference on the future of Europe was officially launched at a special event on Europe Day in Strasbourg, featuring speeches by the Presidents of the EU institutions and the French President Emmanuel Macron i. The event hosted Erasmus students from across the EU, while more than 500 citizens participated remotely.

“The Conference is for all Europeans to debate a shared vision of what we want our Union to be”, President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen i said in her speech. “We must ensure it is not an intellectual policy exercise or a closed political compromise. And we must listen to all voices and ensure that we properly follow up on whatever is agreed.”

The Conference is designed as a citizen-led series of debates and discussions that will enable people from across Europe to share their ideas and help shape our common future.

President von der Leyen said that the Conference was a real opportunity to bring Europeans together and to rally around a common ambition for our future. “We should not underestimate the power of good that it could do - for people individually and for society as a whole”, she added, stressing that the EU must be whatever Europeans want it to be.

She explained that the Conference provided an opportunity for Europeans to ‘help find the right balance', but also to see how we can simplify Europe and make it more down to earth where it was needed.

She put the young people at the centre of her speech, noting that the leadership and empathy that they have shown since the start of the pandemic gave us ‘hope and a responsibility to build a better world'.

“We cannot replace the lost time which the pandemic has taken from young people, but we can build something better and fairer, for them and with them. We have to act now, and young people must play a central role in this change”, von der Leyen stressed.

As of 19 April 2021, citizens have already been able to voice their views on the future of Europe and exchange with others from across the EU via a multilingual digital platform. Key ideas and recommendations from the platform will serve as input for the European citizens' panels and the plenary events, where they will be debated to produce the Conference's conclusions.