Shaping a Europe of All Peoples

10 Proposals for the Conference on the Future of Europe

The Conference on the Future of Europe (#CoFoE) is an opportunity for Europeans to make their voices heard. The European Free Alliance is contributing to this debate with 10 proposals for an EU that truly reflects the continent’s cultural diversity.

We invite you to read, share and comment on these proposals, and to endorse them on the official #CoFoE online platform! #TheFutureIsYours


The EU’s main strength is its historical legitimacy, its ability to overcome internal conflicts through dialogue and democracy, and its vocation to deploy these tools to solve conflicts around the world. To be consistent with this record, the Union needs to equip itself with the institutional and legal tools for resolving democratic conflicts on sovereignty within its own borders. Europe cannot be a straitjacket unable of responding to the different democratic demands of its constituent peoples.

The right for stateless nations and peoples to democratically decide their own future must be respected, and for that purpose, we advocate for the creation of a mechanism of clarity at EU level, aimed at facilitating and resolving any eventual self-determination disputes through democratic means. This tool should ensure that positions cannot be imposed nor debates prevented.


The EU treaties should explicitly recognise the existence of stateless nations, historical regions, and national minorities. EU member states should be required to guarantee a minimum level of protection and representation for their minority nations and communities.

We believe that all peoples have the right to choose their own destiny and an institutional framework that empowers them. Currently, stateless nations and minorities are not formally represented within the EU’s structure, and some member states deny them full recognition. For the EU to be a genuine Union of the peoples of Europe, not just the states, these groups must also have a say in the policymaking process.

The ‘Minority Safepack’ European Citizens’ Initiative received over a million signatures, and the European Parliament passed a motion in support of minimum standards for minority rights. In the face of this widespread support, the Commission must accept that its current approach to safeguarding minority rights is inadequate and needs to be expanded.


The EU should officially recognise and use regional, minority and lesser-used languages, and should enforce measures to promote them, such as immersive education.

A person’s mother tongue is an integral part of their identity and that of their community. But not all EU member states sufficiently protect this vital aspect of cultural heritage. The European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages has not been ratified by all, while member states continue to pursue centralising policies that diminish the role of lesser-used languages or reduce their status to a merely tokenistic one.

In the education system, for example, schools in bilingual areas should be able to provide immersive teaching. Under this model, regional or minority languages are used throughout the school day, not only for a few hours a week. Securing the linguistic abilities of young people in this way is the only way to protect Europe’s cultural diversity in the long term.


To promote equality in all walks of life, anti-discrimination laws should be expanded to cover not only employment, but all other aspects of society too.

According to the EU Treaties, the EU seeks to be a society “in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.” But currently, EU anti-discrimination laws only apply fully with regard to employment. They should be expanded to provide the same degree of protection for access to healthcare, education, and access to goods and services. In this way, the EU can use legal means to effectively promote a society in which nobody has cause to feel disadvantaged due to their gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or disability.


The EU and its member states should make use of deliberative citizens’ participation methods, like Citizens’ Assemblies, to encourage dialogue and overcome deadlocks in important policy areas.

Recent exercises in participative democracy, like the Citizens’ Assembly in Scotland and the Citizens’ Panels in the Conference on the Future of Europe, allow for randomly-selected citizens to raise ideas and make proposals. But they also help to bring the citizens closer to decision makers and overcome the crisis of representative democracy. These processes can help give voice to those who are often excluded from the political system, such as stateless nations or minorities.

Referendums should be used to decide big questions of constitutional importance, as in Scotland and Catalonia. But the Brexit referendum has shown the outcome of a referendum campaign that was rushed, polarising and not suitably informed. Deliberative processes such as Citizens’ Assemblies should be used to kick-start an inclusive, less confrontational and more dialogue-oriented discussion prior to referendums on important topics. This model has been used very successfully in Ireland to decide on constitutional changes such as changing abortion and blasphemy laws.


The EU should use its soft power to promote human rights abroad and stand in solidarity with oppressed peoples all over the world.

The EU is the world’s biggest economic market. This gives it a huge amount of negotiating power when it comes to trade agreements. This power should be used not merely to secure cheap access to foreign products, but to promote European values, boost democracy and encourage high quality standards in goods worldwide. Human rights clauses should be included in all trade agreements, and sanctions should be applied to countries that repeatedly violate social and democratic norms.


The EU should enforce minimum standards in social housing and put restrictions on the proliferation of short-term holiday rentals to protect communities affected by high property prices and over-tourism.

Affordable and adequate housing is a human right recognised in EU and international law. Despite that, access to housing continues to be an enormous problem in many parts of the EU, with house prices having risen by more than 30% since 2015. This problem is compounded by the fact that in many areas – especially scenic rural regions already facing economic difficulties – housing is treated as a profitable investment with little regard for local needs. Short-term holiday rentals and services such as AirBnB are putting further pressure on vulnerable communities, driving up prices to the extent that locals are forced to leave. By restricting speculative property investments, providing better access to social housing, building new and greener homes, and protecting the status of local residents, EU member states can turn affordable and adequate housing into a realistic prospect for all Europe’s citizens.


The EU should build a coherent, consistent and positive message for the Western Balkans regarding their future membership of the Union.

The Western Balkans were promised EU membership in the Thessaloniki summit in 2003. But since then, many aspects of the enlargement process have stalled. Despite having overcome its 30-year dispute with Greece, North Macedonia now faces a veto from Bulgaria, sending the message that even huge reforms with an impact on the country’s society and culture are not enough to guarantee serious accession talks.

These countries are geographically, historically and culturally undeniably part of Europe. They are surrounded by EU member states, with which they enjoy extensive economic and social ties. Their accession as full member states should be a matter of priority. But in the face of mixed signals from the EU, enthusiasm for EU membership in these countries is fading. This is providing autocratic leaders with the opportunity to roll back democratic reforms, while other powers like Russia and China expand their influence in the region. To combat this, the EU urgently needs to find a more appealing message and reassure citizens and political leaders in the Balkans that their future lies in the EU.


The EU should push for all member states to provide the right to vote at 16 for all elections.

Because they make up the next generation and will shape our future society, the needs and wishes of young people are of vital importance for the political process. Young people should be not only the targets of policies, but also decision-makers in their own right. The best way to promote their political engagement, and thereby ensure that political debate is relevant and addressing the real needs of the future, is to lower the voting age to 16 across Europe. Many countries, including Scotland, Wales, Austria and Malta, already allow votes at 16, while Belgium and Germany have introduced legislation to lower the voting age before the next elections. This has increased interest in politics among young people in these countries, but at the same time it has created a situation where different EU member states vote at different ages. The EU should encourage its member states to harmonise at 16, and to ensure that all elections (local, regional, state-level and European) use the same voting age.


The EU should vigorously defend peace, freedom and democracy within its borders, especially at sub-state level.

The EU was founded after the Second World War to secure peace as well as economic and social prosperity. Its goals are to maintain peace within its borders, defend democracy, and to safeguard the rule of law, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. In practice, however, the EU is constituted as a Union of its Member States, rather than of its peoples. This means it frequently defends its Member States’ interests even when they are in direct opposition to those of European citizens. When democracy and the rule of law come into conflict, as in Catalonia, the EU finds itself on the side of those who use violent force to suppress democratic expression.

The EU should represent not only a Europe without war, but also one that stands up for the recognition of its minorities, the right to self-determination and unconditional respect for dignity and human rights. Based on these fundamental and democratic principles, it must actively seek to prevent new conflict and resolve existing conflicts through dialogue, and to tackle all the consequences of conflict – with special care for victims and political prisoners.