EZA forum on the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE)

On 3rd February 2022 took place – online – the last event within the series of EZA events on the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE), called EZA forum. 35 representatives of workers’ organisations from Bulgaria, Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Serbia, Romania, Portugal, Hungary, Poland, Italy, Luxembourg and Malta participated in the event, that was organised by EZA, with the support of the European Union.

  1. Introductions

The EZA forum started with three introductions. Elmar Brok, former MEP, gave an overview of the Treaties, their importance in building the EU, his view on the new EU and a reflection on our proposals. Cindy Franssen, MEP told us about the actual initiatives regarding health and Ivo Belet, advisor of Commissioner Suica talked about the state of play of the CoFoE and the next steps.

In the history of the EU there are several moments of reflection on the building of a strong EU and the democratic process. In the beginning it was easier to cover this, but after the enlargements the issue of the democratic decision making became a great challenge, regarding the fact that there are more countries to veto a proposal. And now there is a new moment of reflection.

For Elmar Brok the new EU must be citizen focused, better informing the citizens, with an economy for the people and a new push for democracy, the social pillar more in front, the green transition as an important challenge creating great expectations. He underlined also that the EU can change a lot of things without changing the treaties. But amendments on treaties must not be taboo.

Internationally the EU is not included in discussions because the EU is not unified. He gave as example, regarding the current international crisis, that the EU has two times more defence means than Russia but divided over so many systems that it is impossible to let it work.

In his opinion, the EU must focus on the majority voting system and must overcome the vetoes. The treaties foreseen already protection measures for the little countries in the EU and this must be improved without overprotecting them and give them the possibility to block every decision. The pressure must come from the EP, because the EC choose side of the council. The EP must become more important. The treaties choose for the subsidiarity model and that is okay. The problem is that member states invoke this model when it suits their own interests. The principal of subsidiarity does not mean that one level is better than another lever, but the different levels must fight together to solve the problems.

Elmar Brok is critical about the outcome of the CoFoE. They face so many proposals that it is very tempting for cherry picking. The actual French presidency has no concrete mandate because of the elections, and this is not the way forward, only a clear mandate is.

According to him, the EU health policy is insufficient because the EU is not unified. Although the treaties include already the social market. But the enterprises take too much power. To reach the best democracy and maintain the rule of law it is important that the powers between politics and the judicial are divided, check and balances are important and the protection of the individual and minority is paramount.

Finally he calls for a better protection of the workers’ rights and the increase of the coverage by collective bargaining in the member states and the EU.

Cindy Franssen looked at the health policy in the EU. There is still a lot of work to do by synchronizing health policies in the EU, bringing together several European institutes and the necessity of shared competences.

As example she referred to the approach of the Covid pandemic. At the start there was no unified reaction and that made the fight against the pandemic only more difficult and unsuccessful, EU tried to synchronize the national choices, but without a good toolbox. EU needs for health issues a bigger toolbox. But she notices now that there are first steps for a health union and one crisis response is build up. Like the global negotiations on prices. It may not stop at this point; the EU must go further. She hopes that increasing the competence for the EU level get support from everyone in the CoFoE.

It is important to debate on what the EU can do or not, but the final purpose must be a better benefit for the citizens.

An example of good work is the “beat cancer plan” that guarantees an entrance for help for everyone. And when there is a better care in another state of the EU the possibility to use it must further improve. The recommendations are worked out in the EP and it is clear that there are big differences between Eastern and Western European countries. To optimize these recommendations, it is necessary to create a European health data space. When we talk about a better health policy in the EU than we need to protect the workers. It is also clear that the health-care staff must be protected. The progress is slow, but on the other hand she beliefs in the new path and there will be benefit for citizens.

Ivo Belet gave a status of the CoFoE and talked about the next steps. The citizens panels are finalizing their work. There was some delay because of the Covid pandemic. The next plenaries will discuss the proposals of the citizens panels. He appreciates the work of EZA by building up step by step the proposals for the CoFoE and we are still in time for uploading the proposals.

His advice was also that we should look at the proposals which are already on the platform and we will see that there are a lot of proposals in line with those of EZA.

On the question if there is a real sense of change from the EC; he answered that it is important to wait for the final report and judge at that moment. But there is a big belief that there is really the will to work further with the proposals. The citizens panels were put together with an eye to balance on different facets with guaranteed transparency. The private company which is guiding this whole process has a very good track record for this kind of public participation procedures. It is everyone’s wish that this important process may not fail and must help the EU to build a better future.

  1. Debate proposals

After these introductions there was a powerpoint with the 29 proposals grouped by cluster as in the platform of the CoFoE. The participants got by mail before the meeting the different proposals and these proposals were discussed.

  1. Final proposals – short summary

Preliminary remarks

We strongly believe that the EU must use the kairos to live up to the original goals of its founding generation and to have the courage to proceed with comprehensive reforms and action for the next generation.

Do not disappoint EU citizens taking part in the process of the CoFoE, ensures in full transparency the follow-up of the input made to the CoFoE.

Use all existing possibilities of the treaties and treaty changes must not be a taboo.

EU values – democracy – rule of law

EU values

  1. Current and future decision-makers of the European Union take respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law and respect for human rights (including minorities) as the fundamental elements driving further development of the EU.
  2. Against the return of nationalism, the rise of populism, euro-scepticism, and xenophobia the EU needs to act to promote and enforce its values.
  3. Mutual respect and tolerance must be fostered in our multicultural and multireligious societies and grassroot organisations are to be considered vital players.
  4. The EU values carry the EU foreign policy and trade relations. Enhance the support for the transition process in the Western Balkan countries.


  1. We underline the need for more participative and deliberative democracy to complement and to strengthen the representative democracy, not to replace it. Install a permanent mechanism to implement Article 11.1 and 11.2 of the TEU.
  2. Strengthen the role of the European Parliament at the core of the European political system with the right for legislative initiative. Overcome the principle of unanimous decisions in the Council.
  3. Stop growing influence of the big economy/multinational enterprises and enhance transparency.
  4. Strengthen the political and democratic knowledge of the citizens by including in European educational curricula and lifelong learning schemes.
  5. Combat hate speech, sedition, disinformation and discrimination by regulating the misuse of anonymity in social media.
  6. Subsidiarity as a main principle needs to go hand in hand with solidarity and responsibility and as part of a model of cooperative multilevel governance.
  7. We refer to the ‘Pisa process’ in education as an example to urge the member states to work with this method of voluntary cooperation, bottom-up, on the EU level in several domains (health, climate, energy and others).

Rule of law

  1. The EU needs new political and juridical instruments which allow for effective action when EU values are breached by member states.
  2. Regional and local information and reflection points must be set up to offer citizens a protected platform to share their experiences.

New European social economic model / social affairs:

  1. Social dimension must be enhanced, in the event of a conflict fundamental social rights take precedence over economic goals. Workplace democracy must be enhanced.
  2. The EU as eco-social market economy, supporting countries facing specific transition challenges. Circular and social economy should be promoted. The European Pillar of Social Rights should become legally binding.
  3. GDP-focused economic thinking can be overcome by rethinking and redefining the Stability Pact and must be completed with a new toolbox developed for measuring well-being, social progress and sustainability in Europe.
  4. A more digital and sustainable European economy must be accompanied by comprehensive measures for a socially fair  and just transition in order to make that no one will be left behind.
  5. Single market with labour mobility require coordination of social security systems, a guaranteed minimum wage and coordinating wage policies.
  6. Better protection for vulnerable people on the labour market. Inequality in pay must be addressed to lift the low paid out of in-work-poverty. The gender pay gap must be closed.
  7. EU must put special emphasis on the future of the young generation. Precarity and instability must be transferred to prospects for improvement in the quality of life.
  8. Social dialogue, collective bargaining and coverage by collective agreements contribute to more justice, better productivity and competitiveness.
  9. Additional initiatives for disadvantaged regions for redeveloping and reducing the brain drain.


  1. European Health Union, including workers’ health and safety, with more competence to the EU level.
  2. EU must tackle the destructive downwards spiral in the healthcare sector, with medical tourism and migration of highly skilled healthcare workers to lower skill jobs in Western Europe
  3. Everyone in the EU must have the right to timely access to affordable, preventive and curative healthcare as well as long-term care of good quality.
  4. EU must invest in a strong social security system that is capable of supporting well-equipped health systems, ensuring good working conditions and fair pay for medical staff and healthcare workers.
  5. Based on the EU-OSHA 2021 Long-Term Care Report, develop measures to address work-life balance, bullying/mobbing and health awareness. Support the ILO convention on the prevention of harassment and violence at work.
  6. The EU need a framework that guarantees healthy working conditions and must involve trade unions as partners. The role and resources of labour inspectorates should be enhanced.


  1. Failure to take necessary steps towards a sustainable economy will result in a social graveyard. EU must work together with the social partners on a just and fair transition and must share successful experiences by turning old non-sustainable industrial zones into future-oriented sustainable industrial zones.
  2. The EU should support campaigns for active citizen involvement. Environmental education for children and adults should be expanded.
  3. The EU should adopt mandatory due diligence legislation to ensure compliance with environmental aspects as well as human rights along the entire supply chain and products need to be labelled accordingly (traceability).