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Shaping the Conference on the Future of Europe

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European Commission set out its ideas for shaping the Conference on the Future of Europe, which should be launched on Europe Day, 9 May 2020 and run for two years. The Communication adopted is the Commission’s contribution to the already lively debate around the Conference on the Future of Europe – a project announced by President Ursula von der Leyen in her Political Guidelines, to give Europeans a greater say on what the European Union does and how it works for them. The Conference will build on past experiences, such as citizens’ dialogues, while introducing a wide range of new elements to increase outreach and strengthen ways for people to shape future EU action. The Conference will allow for an open, inclusive, transparent and structured debate with citizens of diverse backgrounds and from all walks of life. The Commission is committed to follow up on the outcome.

The Commission proposes two parallel work strands for the debates. The first should focus on EU priorities and what the Union should seek to achieve: including on the fight against climate change and environmental challenges, an economy that works for people, social fairness and equality, Europe’s digital transformation, promoting our European values, strengthening the EU’s voice in the world, as well as shoring up the Union’s democratic foundations. The second strand should focus on addressing topics specifically related to democratic processes and institutional matters: notably the lead candidate system and transnational lists for elections to the European Parliament.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, commented: “People need to be at the very centre of all our policies. My wish is therefore that all Europeans will actively contribute to the Conference on the Future of Europe and play a leading role in setting the European Union’s priorities. It is only together that we can build our Union of tomorrow.”

Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President for Democracy and Demography, stated: “We must seize the momentum of the high turnout at the last European elections and the call for action which that brings. The Conference on the Future of Europe is a unique opportunity to reflect with citizens, listen to them, engage, answer and explain. We will strengthen trust and confidence between the EU institutions and the people we serve. This is our chance to show people that their voice counts in Europe.”

A new public forum for an open, inclusive and transparent debate

The Commission sees the Conference as a bottom-up forum accessible to people well beyond Europe’s capitals, from all corners of the Union. Other EU institutions, national Parliaments, social partners, regional and local authorities and civil society are invited to join. A multilingual online platform will ensure transparency of debate and support wider participation. The Commission is committed to taking the most effective actions, with the other EU institutions, to integrate citizens’ ideas and feedback into EU policy-making.

Background

All Members of the College will play their part in helping to make the Conference a success, with Vice-President Šuica leading the Commission’s work on the Conference, supported by Vice-President Jourová on the institutional strand, as well as Vice-President Šefčovič on the foresight and inter-institutional side.  

The European Parliament and the Council are also working on their contributions to the Conference on the Future of Europe. The European Parliament resolution of 15 January 2020 called for an open and transparent process which takes an inclusive, participatory and well-balanced approach towards citizens and stakeholders. Meanwhile, the European Council conclusions of 12 December 2019 called on the Croatian Presidency to begin work on the Council’s position. The Croatian Presidency has itself listed the Conference among its Presidency Priorities.

After this, it is of crucial importance that the three institutions work together towards a Joint Declaration to define the concept, structure, scope and timing of the Conference on the Future of Europe, as well as setting down its jointly agreed principles and objectives. This Declaration will later be open to other signatories including institutions, organisations and stakeholders. National and regional Parliaments and actors have an important role to play in the Conference and should be encouraged to hold Conference-related events The Commission underlines in its contribution today that it is commited to follow up on the outcomes and recommendations of the different debates.

The Commission proposes to officially launch the Conference on Europe Day, 9 May 2020 – 70 years after the signing of the Schuman Declaration and 75 years after the end of the Second World War.

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WEF calls for new partnerships to generate private capital for fragile communities

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The World Economic Forum released today a paper that calls for new collaboration between humanitarian and development organizations, businesses, investors and entrepreneurs to make a difference to the lives of the nearly 1 billion people living in fragile and conflict-affected settings worldwide.
 
Cultivating Investment Opportunities in Fragile Contexts: Catalysing Market-Driven Solutions to Strengthen Community and Economy Resilience outlines a practical approach to how organizations can build the capacity and strategic thinking needed to develop a sustainable business case for solutions that have the potential to unlock new sources of finance to reach impact at scale.
 
“It takes more than a single intervention to unleash transformational change in complex ecosystems. To truly leverage the potential for positive and sustainable social impact while meeting investor demand for returns, new ways of collaboration across sectors are needed,” said Børge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum.
 
The IKEA foundation is a partner of this initiative. Over the next three years the partnership will develop innovative business models and investments that strengthen local economies and increase the self-reliance and resilience of the most vulnerable communities and economies.
 
“We support the World Economic Forum because of our mutual goal to improve the lives of people who are affected by crises, including those who are forced to flee,” said IKEA Foundation CEO Per Heggenes. “We believe that together we can help attract the investment needed to strengthen fragile communities and empower the people who live in them to rebuild their lives and create a better future for children and their families.”
 
The joint discussion paper is an evolution of the work initiated by the Forum’s Humanitarian and Resilience Investing (HRI) Initiative, which was launched at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2019 in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland.
 
As a first step, the initiative will operationalize the Organizational Readiness Playbook launched in 2020, and bring together a cohort of pioneers from humanitarian and development organizations, donor governments and development finance institutions to increase organizational capacity for HRI.
 
The initiative will also support investment opportunities targeting HRI to meet investor criteria and attract the commercial capital needed to reach scale. It will further facilitate the development of new tools, research and resources, including the standards, common terminology and analytic frameworks that allow for systems-level impact measurement.

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Von Der Leyen Condemns ‘Russia’s Blackmail’ on Food and Fuel

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Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, denounced Russian aggression and its use of “hunger and grain to wield power”, in a special address at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022.

“Global cooperation is the antidote to Russia’s blackmail,” she said.

Her message focused on strategic priorities for Europe since the invasion. Boosting military spending is one such initiative. “We have to invest much more in solid European defence capabilities,” von der Leyen said. While NATO remains the world’s strongest military alliance, European spending on defence has not kept pace with recent increases by the United States, Russia or China, particularly since the 2008 financial crisis.

Increasing that spending – with a particular focus on the interoperability of nations’ defence investments – can help strengthen the region’s ability to defend itself from such threats.

She pointed to other key initiatives such as promoting green power, ensuring the resilience of supply chains and promoting food security. In terms of energy, she said, the crisis in Ukraine has galvanized Europe’s embrace of renewable sources and diversification of its energy supply.

RePowerEU, a €300 euro plan launched last week by the European Commission, aims to accelerate the green transition by nearly doubling Europe’s energy consumption from renewable sources by 2030.

Ultimately, “hydrogen is the new frontier of Europe’s energy network”, von der Leyen said.

Europe must respond to additional knock-on effects of the war, such as rising food prices, as Russia has confiscated Ukrainian grain and blockaded other food exports. Europe is helping by providing revenue, increasing its food production and supporting other regions such as Africa in becoming less dependent on food exports.

Technology can be a part of the solution to food insecurity to boost “climate-smart” agriculture. Vertical farming and precision irrigation are among the initiatives that can improve access to food in climate-responsible ways.

In a conversation with Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman and Founder, World Economic Forum, von der Leyen noted that she could see a long-term future in which Russia found a path back to alignment with Europe.

“This brutal invasion is standing up against the leadership in Russia,” she said. The people of Russia, who ultimately will control the nation’s future, are the ones who will decide the nation’s way forward. If, in the future, the nation embraces “rule of law and respect for the international, rules-based order, it’s a clear yes”, she said.

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Stoltenberg: Freedom Must Come Before Trade

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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, in a keynote speech to the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2022, told participants that the brutal war of aggression on Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe, triggering an historic enlargement of NATO.

“NATO has two fundamental tasks in response to Russia’s aggression: providing support to Ukraine and preventing the war from escalating,” he said.

“Since Russia’s invasion, NATO has significantly stepped up support – with billions of dollars of weapons and other assistance to help Ukraine uphold its right to self-defence as enshrined in the UN Charter.”

“We may have been shocked by Russia’s brutal invasion. But we should not be surprised,” he said.

Stoltenberg pointed out that the invasion was one of the “best predicted” acts of military aggression ever, adding that NATO shared intelligence and made it public for months “to warn about Putin’s plans”.

“Russia’s attack on Ukraine is part of a pattern over many years – the use of military force to achieve its political aims: the destruction of Grozny; the invasion of Georgia; the annexation of Crimea; and the bombing of Aleppo.”

“In response we will defend every inch of NATO territory,” he said.

He laid out a series of significant actions taken by NATO – increased defence spending, deployment of combat battlegroups in the eastern part of the alliance and placing 100,000 troops on high alert. And, for the first time ever, a US Amphibious Ready Group has been placed under NATO command.

“NATO’s response is not to provoke conflict but to prevent conflict and preserve peace,” he said.

Referring to Finland and Sweden’s historic decision to apply for NATO, he said: “President Putin wanted less NATO on his borders and launched his war – and now he is getting more NATO on his borders.”

“Today, close to 600 million Europeans live in a NATO country, with the alliance protecting about 93% of the EU population,” he added.

In a question-and-answer with Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum, after his speech, Stoltenberg pointed out a key lesson of the war in Ukraine that economic relations with authoritarian regimes can create vulnerabilities.

“Freedom is more important than free trade,” he said, and “the protection of our values is more important than profit.”

He said the World Economic Forum has brought the global community together for half a century to address some of the world’s most difficult problems. “Today we need this spirit of Davos more than ever.”

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