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    Factbox-EU Project to Engage Citizens, and What They Came up With | World News

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    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union has engaged in a year-long exercise designed to engage European citizens more and hear their views on the future direction the bloc should take.

    The exercise, called the Conference on the Future of Europe, saw various citizen panels feeding into a plenary chamber, made up of EU lawmakers, government representatives and citizens, to debate a series of recommendations.

    The end result is that over 17,000 ideas have been condensed into 49 proposals, which the EU institutions have pledged to consider, and which was presented in a final report on Monday.

    They are divided between climate change, health, economy and social justice, the EU in the world, values, digital transformation, European democracy, migration and education, youth and sport.

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    Proposals on climate change and the environment stress food security, biodiversity, provision of high-quality green transport infrastructure, sustainable packaging and promotion of plant-based diets.

    The health proposals focus on ensuring Europeans have access to healthy food, strengthening health systems and establishing a common minimum standard of healthcare.

    On the economy, proposals concentrate on green and digital growth, enhancing Europe’s competitiveness and promoting fairer working conditions.

    The proposals seek to increase EU self-reliance in areas such as agriculture, semiconductors and medical products, along with energy, and to make trade and investment outside the EU more conditional on human and labour rights. They also seek to strengthen the role of the EU’s foreign policy chief so that the bloc speaks with one voice.

    The final report pushes for stricter enforcement of EU competition rules in the media sector and the setting up of an EU body to tackle disinformation.

    The proposals support greater investment to ensure equal access to the internet and a stronger EU role in legal migration and handling asylum seekers.

    They also seek increased citizen and youth involvement in EU democracy in future and boosted participation in European Parliament elections, including through changes in EU electoral law to harmonise conditions, such as on voting age and the election date.

    Some of the proposals call for change of the European Union treaties, notably those that seek to end the requirement of unanimity in certain policy areas, from tax to foreign policy, so as to speed up decisions.

    The prospect has met with opposition from many EU governments, mindful of the struggles experienced in pushing them through in the past. Second referendums were required in Denmark in 1992-1993 and twice in Ireland in 2001-2002 and 2008-2009.

    (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

    Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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