CHEN Fei,CHEN Lingzhi:Conference on the Future of Europe: A New Experiment of the EU’s Institutional Innovation


After experiencing a multiple of crises which have increasingly exposed the dilemma of the EU governance, the EU has turned to the Conference on the Future of Europe (CoFoE) as a democratic experiment aimed to enhance its legitimacy by strengthening citizen participation. This initiative was embraced, to different degrees, by the European Parliament, the European Commission, the Council and the 27 Member States. However, a successful CoFoE is faced with three major challenges including the inter-institutional rivalries, the newly-emerged and long-standing difficulties that the EU has had with citizen participation, and the treaty reform deficit. As a laboratory for democracy, the CoFoE introduced a new institutional method that originally combined bottom-up citizens’ participation with top-down elite decision-making mechanisms, which temporarily suspended the disputes between the EU institutions, effectively promoted citizen participation and demonstrated the potential for treaty reform. Nevertheless, due to the current situations, both potentials and risks exist as to the CoFoE, whose future direction will be determined by the will and political wisdom of both the EU and its member states.