A Call for Future-Ready EU Governance

In the EU decision-making, there is a conspicuous absence of representation and formal rights for future generations. With existing strategies limited to 2050, policymakers prioritize short-term gains, sidelining intergenerational equity and the principles of sustainable development. In a recent article, Professor Alberto Alemanno sheds light on this critical issue and proposes transformative measures for the EU to enhance its democratic legitimacy.

The Blind Spot: Future Generations in EU Governance

The European Union, born out of the aftermath of World War II, was conceived as a guardian of future generations. However, today, these future voices remain unheard and unrepresented in EU decision-making. The absence of a legal mandate to consider long-term interests poses a significant challenge. 

Proposals for Reform

To address this critical issue, Professor Alemanno suggests several reforms:

1. Establish a Dedicated EU Office for Future Generations

  • Learn from existing national models in Finland, Hungary, Malta, Sweden, and Wales, or international examples like Canada, Israel, and Uruguay.
  • Consider a 2021 proposal to appoint a United Nations special envoy for future generations, possibly transforming the UN Trusteeship Council into a forward-looking body.

2. European Ombudsman for Future Generations

  • Empower the European Ombudsman with enhanced competencies to scrutinize policy decisions impacting future well-being.
  • Align with the Treaty on European Union’s aim to “promote peace, values, and the well-being of its people.”

3. European Commissioner for Future Generations

  • Designate a member of the European Commission as the Commissioner for Future Generations, potentially with first vice-president status.
  • Foster interdisciplinary collaboration, acting as the EU’s chief foresighter and chief listener, ensuring direct input from citizens and organizations.

4. Expand Impact Assessments Temporal Horizon

  • Extend the temporal dimension of impact assessments beyond the current 20-year horizon.
  • Draw inspiration from Portugal’s framework for intergenerational fairness, systematically assessing public policies for fairness to current and future generations.

5. European Parliament Intergroup on Future Generations

  • Establish a low-cost mechanism for informal exchanges of views on long-term issues.
  • Strengthen the connection between parliamentarians and civil society, fostering a more future-oriented legislative approach.

6. Inter-Institutional Agreement on Future Generations

  • Model an agreement after the union’s Inter-Institutional Agreement on Better Law-Making.
  • Confirm the commitment of the Commission, Parliament, and Council to future generations and outline mechanisms for coordination.

A Europe Fit For Future Generations

As Europe faces an aging population, the urgency to address the blind spot of future generations becomes paramount. Professor Alemanno’s proposals provide a roadmap for the EU to evolve into a forward-thinking, future-ready governance model. These reforms not only enrich democratic qualities but also lay the groundwork for a resilient and inclusive EU—one that is ready to face the challenges that span both time and space. For an in-depth exploration of these proposals, read Professor Alemanno’s full article on SSRN.