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On this Europe Day, French President Emmanuel Macron is expected in Strasbourg with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Parliament President David Sassoli. Together with the leaders of the European Union, he will officially launch the Conference on the Future of Europe, a broad citizen consultation. In Strasbourg, the city expects fallout after the visit of the French head of state.
The Conference on the Future of Europe will be a vast citizen consultation on a model reminiscent of the Citizen’s Climate Convention, meetings will be organized over several weekends in September, they will bring together around 50 people who will have to formulate proposals on the future of Europe. A national summary of their conclusions will be given to Emmanuel Macron and will constitute the French contribution to the Conference.
Anne Sander, French MEP, member of the European People’s Party (EPP) group, however, has some reservations about these consultations. “If we give a voice to the citizens, French or European, behind, we must make sure that this voice is heard. I took part in conventions on Europe that had already taken place. I have had meetings all over France. It was started by Emmanuel Macron after his election, with a multitude of actors and a lot of very enthusiastic people. Who remembers it today and what happened to the hundreds of pages of French proposals? So, if it is to relaunch ourselves in the same exercise to make people believe that we are going to consult people, that we are going to listen to them a few months before the presidential elections … This conference on the future of Europe, it must really collect proposals. I hope that as many people as possible will take part. But be careful to respect the institutions and to listen to what will be said following this participation ”.
The choice to organize this event in Strasbourg is important. MEPs have not sat in plenary since February 2020, due to the Covid-19 epidemic. However, the city is, according to the treaties, the seat of the European Parliament. Emmanuel Macron will plead for a quick return of the sessions to Strasbourg.
In front of the huge circular building of the almost deserted European Parliament, the flags in the colors of the Member States flap their poles. The Republicans MEP Anne Sander is one of the few who still come to her office regularly: “We are here on the forecourt of Parliament. It’s a place that is usually very crowded during sessions. Today, we Alsatians have the feeling that the President of Parliament does not trust us “.
Plenary sessions generate 15% of turnover for the hotel industry. But their cancellation also has an impact on the image of the city, according to Pierre Siegel, president of the Hoteliers and restaurateurs of Strasbourg: “Last summer, when the health situation was much better here than in Brussels, the cancellation of the sessions has generated cancellations of tourists who, as the Parliament has decided not to come, is that the situation is not good, have decided not to come either. People who had nothing to do with the European Parliament “.
There is a second impact that is very important to him, much less quantifiable, and that is the impact in terms of the image given to the city of Strasbourg, to its international influence.
The environmentalist mayor of Strasbourg, Jeanne Barseghian, intends once again to plead this cause during her meeting this afternoon with the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli: “The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has already sat in pairs. times this year and therefore, from my point of view, there is no longer any reason why parliamentary sessions cannot resume very quickly in our city, I hope, before the summer ”. The mayor of Strasbourg is hoping for such an announcement on this Europe Day.
Jeanne Barseghian will also follow the visit of the French head of state to the prefecture for the signing of the three-year contract of 189 million euros intended to strengthen the city’s place as European capital. A big part of this new contract concerns the accessibility of Strasbourg. “All trends combined, European parliamentarians are calling for improved accessibility to Strasbourg”, pleads Mayor Jeanne Barseghian.
The city of Strasbourg also wishes to improve accessibility in its city for diplomatic and European functions.