The European Union is a community of citizens. Its strength is the cultural diversity of a vibrant civil society, while social cohesion beyond all borders forms the basis for a successful common future. Europe thrives on civic engagement. Policymakers need input from an active civil society and a strong European public discourse. We can only shape the future of the European Union by working together.

This is also the aim of the cultural programme of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. This programme highlights the diversity and vibrancy of European civil society and allows young people in particular to be heard.

During its Presidency of the Council, Germany will work to ensure that the voice of European civil society is heard more clearly. How do people envisage the future of Europe? How should the European Union develop further? What do people think the European project will look like in 10 or 20 years? How has the COVID-19 crisis changed perceptions of Europe? What do we expect of Europe?

What is the Conference on the Future of Europe?

Shortly after taking office, the President of the European Commission suggested a Conference on the Future of Europe. The idea is to provide the public, civil society, experts and EU institutions with a suitable forum to discuss the future of Europe.

The Conference on the Future of Europe will be co-run by the EU member states and the EU institutions (the Council of the EU, the European Parliament and the European Commission). Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the EU will endeavour to secure agreement between the various institutions on a format and timetable so that the Conference on the Future of Europe can begin as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic permits. As a result of the pandemic, digital formats are likely to play a particularly important role.

What will the Conference on the Future of Europe address?

The aim of the Conference on the Future of Europe is to provide a forum for discussion with the public about crucial issues of importance for the EU’s medium and long-term development. Such issues include the future of Europe’s economic and social system, sustainability, climate protection, innovation, digital transformation and the EU’s core values. The conference will also explore the lessons that Europe can learn from the pandemic. The goal is to draw up proposals for concrete measures.

What sort of digital information do we want? How can we protect ourselves against disinformation? What digital identity do we want to have?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become very clear how important the role of digital media is for the process of democratic opinion-forming – and how great a danger disinformation poses here. We are therefore committed to strengthening societies’ resilience in their approach to false and misleading information on the internet in order to counteract the polarisation of public debates – including by external actors and targeted disinformation.