Speaking in Parliament late on Tuesday, Conte said the reform was necessary in order to “restore Europe’s credibility in the eyes of its citizens.”
At present, only the European Commission has the right to initiate laws, but in recent years Parliament has been given additional competences in some areas of the EU decision-making process.
Conte’s call comes ahead of the European elections in May for which the EU is hoping a huge promotional campaign will reverse the normally low voter turnout, dropping to less than 25 percent in some Member States.
Addressing MEPs in Strasbourg in a debate on the future of Europe, Conte said the EU is facing “a fork in the road” as “the people are urgently asking to be heard.”
He said, “This is a valuable opportunity to reverse the process of detachment between rulers and governed, which if fed could lead to the European project imploding.”
GALVANISING EU INTEGRATION
Conte said that among the challenges to be tackled to “galvanise” the European integration process, was the need for a common EU seat in the UN Security Council, strengthening relations with the USA, a strong dialogue with Russia and China and the creation of a true European common defence.
He stressed the need for a stable solution to manage migration flows, including so-called secondary movements, based on real solidarity between Member States. He also asked for a new approach to Africa’s problems, through a partnership of equals.
In a wide-ranging speech, he also touched on the economy, saying that overcoming austerity means “balancing growth and stability” and committing to the values of social solidarity and sustainable development.”
In his address, Conte also called for more investment in youth, education and innovation, and for priority to be given to employment and the creation of tools for growth.
His speech is the latest in a series of such debates with EU leaders in the run-up to the elections.
Conte was met with a generally cool reception by MEPs, some of whom “deplored” his coalition government’s “poor record on reining in the rise of fascism” as well as anti-migration policies.
These include GUE/NGL MEP Eleonora Forenza, who warned that “unless it changes course, the current situation in Italy could also have a detrimental effect on the future of Europe.”
“There are currently two options facing Europe right now - both are interconnected and equally destructive. One is the continuation of neoliberal politics. Second is the rise of the far-right.”
“However, my group and I are working on a third way - an alternative to both the Conte government and this Europe - founded on the self-determination of women, men and the people,” she added.
Forenza, who along with her assistant were reportedly attacked by members of the far-right CasaPound in Bari last September, then turned to what she called “the rise of neo-fascism and its links with Conte’s deputy, Matteo Salvini.”
“The European Parliament has asked Member States to ban neo-fascist and neo-Nazi organisations. But how does Prime Minister Conte explain the relationship between Matteo Salvini and the openly-fascist party, CasaPound?”
“It is the Conte government's policies and Salvini’s words which have fanned the flame for far-right organisations and their increasing violence”
Forenza - wearing a hooded top of the NGO “Open Arms”, which carries out search and rescue at sea - raised the issue of migration, saying the Italian government was “waging a war” against migrants.
She told the debate, “They aren’t even considered humans anymore. This government lets people drown at sea, tortured in Libya and locked up in camps for illegal migrants in Italy. And the far-right Lega party didn't even vote in favour of a reform of the Dublin regulation. This kind of politics is not fit for a civilised nation.”