This is a statement by Roger Casale, founder of New Europeans, on the Conference on the Future of Europe.
The European Council has never taken the Conference on the Future of Europe seriously - in fact, it was often said that it gave EU ambassadors something to laugh about after COREPER meetings.
So it is not surprising that the Council is still frustrating the dreams of those who thought the Conference could lead to a new impetus behind a kind of United States of Europe.
The Conference was never meant to hold such noble ambitions. But equally it is a mistake on the part of the Council to fail to see its potential. Citizens have a powerful voice, as the British found when they put this to the test in the Brexit referendum. Governments can find that citizens have the last laugh on them.
The pandemic has been a missed opportunity to start the Conference online. Many are understandably nervous about technology - but used properly it can have a powerful and positive impact on democracy.
More important than the start date of the Conference, is the idea that it should never end. Many see the Conference as the precursor of a permanent mechanism of citizen engagement and consultation in the EU.
The real challenge is that COVID has fundamentally changed the conversation about the future of Europe. The Council's strategic plan from 2019 looks hopelessly outdated from the perspective of 2021.
We now need to talk about the steps Europe must take to better prepare for future pandemics. A health union for example, or a universal basic income; ideas that are much more popular now than two years ago.
Let’s also remember that the EU has doubled its budget. What oversight will Europe's citizens have on spending priorities for the recovery funds or how loans funded by Eurobonds will be used and paid back?
There is much to be gained by building on the feeling that the Coronavirus has instilled in so many of us; namely that we are all in this together. Civil society organisations working on the frontline against the pandemic experience that every day and it is vital that they are included in the Conference as partners.
Coronavirus has also taught us that every life matters. It's equally true that each and every voice should be heard. The Conference of the Future of Europe is a powerful instrument for making sure that happens.