In his intervention, Jo Leinen stressed that "I believe that civil society has a crucial role in politics and it represents the direct link between citizens and politicians. Despite resurging nationalism, they support the process of European integration, as shown by the growing success of pro-European grass-roots initiatives, but they demand an EU that has the ability to act and deliver in key areas such as migration, security, and economic and social progress. Time has come to go on the streets again and fight for Europe and for the Europe we want."
He went on underlining that "the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty and the “March for Europe” taking place on 25 March in Rome must be the starting point for a public debate which leads to a new consensus on what we expect from the EU and on the instruments it needs. This process can only be successful if the “Future of Europe” is debated in as many cities, municipalities and regions as possible - from Portugal to the Baltics. Not “Brussels”, but European citizens will decide how the EU will develop. The Committee of Region’s “Reflecting on Europe” initiative with citizens’ conventions is fundamental in this regard.”
He was joined by Christophe Rouillon, Mayor of Coulaines (PES/France) and CoR rapporteur on "Reconnecting Europe with its citizens” who emphasised that "local and regional politicians are best placed to engage with citizens. The citizens' debates should also focus on the added value of European funds, often forgotten in the communication about Europe."
The debate on the Future of Europe forms part of the CoR's wider, ongoing political reflection on the EU's direction - a process whereby it's hosting scores of Citizens' Dialogues across the EU this year and collect messages and opinions from citizens who should then feed into the CoR's opinion on "Reflecting on Europe: the voice of regional and local authorities to rebuild trust in the EU" (co-rapporteurs: the CoR President and the CoR First Vice-President, Markku Markkula and Karl-Heinz Lambertz), to be adopted in late 2017/early 2018, ahead of the launching of the campaign for the European elections of 2019.