Europe Day: Sibiu becomes EU capital for a day as leaders gather to discuss the next five years

Anca Alexe 09/05/2019 | 08:21

On May 9, Romania is hosting its most important European event since it joined the European Union in 2007 – the Informal meeting of heads of state or government, happening on Europe Day, the anniversary of Robert Schuman’s 1950 declaration proposing the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, considered to have been the first step made towards the creation of the European Union. 

The summit is officially hosted by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and chaired by Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council. Also attending are heads of state and government from EU member states, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani.

“On May 9, Europe Day, Romania will be the centre of the process of reflection over the future of the European Union, a symbolic moment that is important in the history of the European construction, where we can remember the benefits of the European integration process and prepare our future strategic priorities. Tomorrow, Europe will be in Romania! Tomorrow, Europe will be drawn from here, in Sibiu, Romania!,” said President Klaus on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, when most of the summit guests had already arrived in Sibiu, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis met with 300 young people from EU member states to debate the future of Europe. A highlight of the debate was Klaus Iohannis saying he agreed in principle with the idea of young people being allowed to vote starting at 16 years old. “But the voting process should also start earlier so we don’t end up in the situation we are in now, where we can vote at 18 but only begin to learn about the vote at 30,” the president added.

EU leaders will discuss the EU’s next strategic agenda for the period 2019-2024. They will exchange views on the challenges and priorities for the EU for the years to come. The discussions in Sibiu will be based on a Leaders’ Agenda note prepared by President Tusk and will be divided in two parts: one on the external dimensions and one on the internal dimensions.

Last week, the European Commission released a series of policy recommendations regarding the ways in which Europe can shape its future “in an increasingly uncertain and multipolar world,” which EU leaders meeting in Sibiu are expected to refer to during the summit.

Future action should, in the Commission’s view, be based on 5 dimensions:

1.  Protective Europe: Pursue efforts to build an effective and genuine European Security Union and move towards a genuine European Defence Union to make defence cooperation within the EU the norm rather than the exception; be more proactive in managing migration.

2.  Competitive Europe: Upgrade, modernise and fully implement the single market in all its aspects; focus research and innovation on the ecological, social and economic transitions and related societal challenges; invest in key European digital capacities and work together to boost Europe-made and human-centric artificial intelligence.

3.  Fair Europe: Continue to deliver on the European Pillar of Social Rights; work with Member States to achieve social inclusion and equality, including by addressing regional disparities, minorities’ needs, gender issues and the challenge of an ageing population; uphold the rule of law and bring fair and modern taxation policy as well as high-quality, affordable and accessible health care and access to quality, energy-efficient affordable housing for all.

4.  Sustainable Europe: Modernise the economy to embrace sustainable consumption and production patterns; reinforce efforts to fight climate change and reverse environmental degradation, transition towards a more resource-efficient circular economy by promoting green growth, bioeconomy and sustainable innovations.

5.  Influential Europe: Europe needs to lead in the world through consistent and strong support for a multilateral, rules-based global order, with the United Nations at its core. The EU should also make it a priority to develop strong relations with close neighbours; a strengthened international role of the euro would also increase Europe’s economic and monetary sovereignty.

The informal meeting in Sibiu is also expected to set the stage for the naming of new EU institution presidents, starting with the European Parliament, following the elections taking place on May 23-26. A new leader of the European Commission will also be elected to replace Jean-Claude Juncker, through a vote of the European Parliament. Besides the EC presidency, new leadership will also be elected for the European Council, the European Central Bank and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. For the first time, the European Chief Prosecutor role is also going to be elected, and Romania’s Laura Codruta Kovesi is one of the two remaining candidates for the role.

 

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