European Citizens' Initiative
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The European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) was introduced with the Treaty of Lisbon, aimed at increasing direct democracy in the European Union. The initiative enables one million EU citizens, who are nationals of at least one quarter of the Member States, to call directly on the European Commission to propose a legal act in an area where the Member States have conferred powers onto the EU level. This right to request the Commission to initiate a legislative proposal puts citizens on the same footing as the EP and the Council, who enjoy this right according to Art. 225 and 241 TFEU, respectively. The Commission holds the right of initiative in the EU. The start of the ECI was marked on 9 May 2012 (Europe Day) with the registration of Fraternité 2020.
- 1 Legal basis
- 2 Initiatives
- 3 Procedure
- 4 Weaknesses
- 5 Ombudsman review of ECI procedures February + March 2014
- 6 Differences from referendums
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The legal basis of the citizens' initiative is set out in Article 11, Paragraph 4 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and Article 24, paragraph 1 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Both articles were newly introduced with the Treaty of Lisbon. The ECI complements the existing right of petition the European Parliament and the right of appeal to the Ombudsman as set out in the Treaty of Maastricht (1993). Petitions and the ECI are fundamentally different however in terms of function, addressees and conditions.
The practical arrangements, conditions and procedure of the ECI have been determined in a regulation. On a proposal from the European Commission, the EP and the Council adopted a regulation which defines the rules and procedure governing this new instrument. According to this regulation, the earliest possible date to register an ECI was 1 April 2012.
The regulation requires a review by 1 April 2015, and every three years thereafter. In the review process, the Commission presents a report on the implementation of the ECI regulation with a view to its possible revision, to which the European Parliament reacts in a report with further recommendations.
Before the entry into force
Greenpeace collected one million signatures in December 2010 for a petition against the authorisation of new GM crops in Europe, hosted by Avaaz. Although Greenpeace has called the petition an ECI in the media, it has never been formally registered with the Commission - as this was not possible before 1 April 2012 - and can therefore not be regarded an ECI as introduced by the Lisbon Treaty.
The first registered initiative
The European Commission chose the symbolic date of 9 May 2012 (Europe Day) to officially launch the very first ECI. This turned out to be Fraternité 2020, which was announced by Vice-President of the Commission Maroš Šefčovič via his Twitter account already one day earlier. Fraternité 2020 was officially registered on 9 May and boasts registration number ECI(2012)000001.
The first successful initiative
On the 21 March 2013, Right2Water became the first ECI to collect more than a million signatures and they reached the minimum quota of signatures in 7 countries on 7 May. They stopped the signature collection on the 7 September with a total of 1,857,605 signatures. The initiative was submitted to the Commission in December and a hearing was organised at the European Parliament for February 2014.
Later approved ECIs
More initiatives have later been registered by the Commission and include (in order of registration):
- Fraternité 2020, on EU exchange programmes;
- Right to Water, on affordable and non-privatized access to clean water;
- One of Us, against the use of human embryos in research;
- Stop Vivisection, against animal experiments;
- High Quality European Education for All;
- Pour une gestion responsible des déchets, contre les incinérateurs;
- Suspension of the EU Climate & Energy Package;
- Central public online collection platform for the European Citizen Initiative;
- European Initiative for Media Pluralism, against political interference and excessive concentration;
- Single Communication Tariff Act aka One Single Tariff, on roaming fees;
- Unconditional Basic Income - Exploring a pathway towards emancipatory welfare conditions in the EU, on the case for a European basic income;
- End Ecocide in Europe A Citizens’ Initiative to give the Earth Rights;
- Let me vote, on expanding voting rights for foreigners.
- 30kmh - making streets liveable!, a regular speed limitation(30 km/h) in cities and villages, with local authorities deciding on exceptions on their street network. An initiative for security and environmental reasons;
While the first few ECIs have been approved, a few have been rejected. Among these are:
- A European Citizens Initiative campaigning to phase out nuclear energy in the EU My voice against nuclear energy;
- A European Citizens Initiative to recommend singing the European Anthem in Esperanto;
- A European Citizens Initiative to stop TTIP. The alliance of organisations behind the petition have submitted a complaint in the European Court of Justice against this decision of the European Commission.
The following ECIs have decided to withdraw after being approved:
- Happy Cows, on animal welfare of dairy cows;
- Abolish Freedom of Movement for Swiss People, also known as Swissout, on repealing the agreement between EU and Swiss on the free movement of persons.
|Czech Republic (CZ)||16,500|
|United Kingdom (GB)||54,750|
There are a few steps absolutely necessary to organise an ECI:
- Prepare the initiative and set up a citizens' committee:
The members of this committee (at least 7 EU citizens, who must live in at least seven different EU countries, old enough to vote in European Parliament elections) designate from among them a representative and a substitute to speak and act on its behalf vis-à-vis the Commission;
- Registration of the ECI in one of the 23 official EU languages on the Commission's website (answer of the commission within two months);
- For the use of an online signature collection get your system certified (by national authorities, answer within 1 months);
- Collection of statements of support (max. 12 months):
You need to have a minimum number of signatories in at least seven EU countries on the way to 1 million (see the thresholds for each country in the table below).
- Get statements of support in each EU country certified by the national authority (answer within 3 months);
- Submit the ECI to the Commission.
Problems in the design of the ECI have heavily burdened ECI campaigners in the process. These include legal constraints (such as liability issues over data protection and insufficient advice regarding the appropriate legal basis of ECIs), technical issues (the online collection system is not user-friendly and does not let campaigners access email addresses of signatories to keep them informed), and bureaucratic hurdles (each member state has different data requirements and signature forms).Very few citizens are aware that the ECI exists. Moreover, there is little guarantee that a successful ECI will have an actual impact on EU legislation, as the two first ‘successful’ ECIs have shown.
The review process will offer a reflection over the successes and failures of the ECI during its first three years. Many civil society organisations, ECI organisers and Members of the European Parliament are advocating for a major reform of the ECI regulation.
The ECI Support Centre, a joint initiative of Democracy International, the European Citizen Action Service und the Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe, has developed an ‘App’ for Android smartphones, which informs users of the latest European Citizens’ Initiatives. The Centre recommends the EU Commission to develop an ECI-App, which should enable mobile signing and can help raise public awareness of the ECI.
The on-line signature collection system
The ECI process allows organizers to also collect statements of support on-line. Even though some developers and organisations has announced the development of software tools, ECI in a box so far only the EC has managed to developed a tool called OCS. The first versions of the software have been heavily criticized by some developers. Some organisers has criticized the security regulations regarding the ECI collection process.
Ombudsman review of ECI procedures February + March 2014
The European Ombudsman asks for feedback: How well do the ECI procedures work? Emily O'Reilly wants to see what the Commission has done to implement the ECI and will make recommendations to increase the effectiveness of the process, if necessary.
Specific issues for scrutiny include:
- the effectiveness of the Commission's software for collecting signatures online,
- how the contacts with the different national authorities work, and possible protection of privacy concerns.
- ideas on possible future changes to the ECI Regulation
Once the Ombudsman has collected the ECI feedback, she will ask the European Commission to respond.
Citizens and organisations can learn more about the consultation on the website of the ombudsman
Differences from referendums
Citizen initiatives are democratic mechanisms that let citizens propose and vote on laws and policies. By gathering a certain number of signatures, citizens can demand a binding vote on a proposed policy or legislation. With the European Citizens’ Initiative, citizens can invite the Commission to look at the proposed policy or legislation; it is not obliged to act. Citizen initiatives differ from referendums in which citizens only can accept or reject a law or policy proposed by parliament. Also, it has been stated by the European Commission that an ECI can only be the subject of the acceptation/creation of a law, but it cannot ask to reject a law.
- "The European Citizens' Initiative". Ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- "Introduction". Europarl.europa.eu. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- Regulation (EU) No. 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council 16 February 2011 on the citizens' initiative.http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:065:0001:0022:EN:PDF
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- "Open initiatives - European Citizens' Initiative - European Commission". Ec.europa.eu. 2014-07-30. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- "Open initiatives - European Citizens' Initiative - European Commission". Ec.europa.eu. 2014-07-30. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- "F2020.eu". F2020.eu. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- "right2water.eu". right2water.eu. 2014-08-11. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- Czech (2014-06-05). "www.oneofus.eu". www.oneofus.eu. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- "stopvivisection.eu". stopvivisection.eu. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- "European Initiative for Media Pluralism - A European mobilisation in defence of media freedom". Mediainitiative.eu. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- "Text of the initiative » Basic Income European Citizens' Initiative". Basicincome2013.eu. 2013-06-03. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- [dead link]
- "30kmh EN | European Citizen´s Initiative "30kmh - making streets liveable!"". En.30kmh.eu. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- my-voice.eu[dead link]
- "Refused request for registration - European Citizens' Initiative - European Commission". Ec.europa.eu. 2014-07-30. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- "Question on Refused request for registration - European Citizens' Initiative - European Commission". Retrieved 2014-11-12.
- "European Citizens’ Initiative against TTIP: Submission of complaint in the European Court of Justice".
- Case T-754/14: Action brought on 10 November 2014 — Efler and Others v Commission. EUR-Lex.
- "European Commission > European Citizens' Initiative > EU Directive on Dairy Cow Welfare". Ec.europa.eu. 2014-07-30. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- "European Commission > European Citizens' Initiative > Kündigung Personenfreizügigkeit Schweiz" [Abolish Freedom of Movement for Swiss People] (in German). Ec.europa.eu. 2014-07-30. Retrieved 2015-02-17.
- "Guide to the European Citizens' Initiative - European Commission". Ec.europa.eu. 2014-07-30. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- "Competent national authorities that certify online collection systems - European Citizens' Initiative - European Commission". Ec.europa.eu. 2014-07-30. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- "Competent national authorities that certify statements of support - European Citizens' Initiative - European Commission". Ec.europa.eu. 2014-07-30. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- "Democracy International - European Citizens' Initiative Reform". Retrieved 2015-03-05.
- ECI 4 All. "eci4all.wordpress.com". eci4all.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- "eci in a box / news / tttp - Tech To The People". Tttp.eu. 2012-09-30. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- "Press releases - European Citizens' Initiative: Ombudsman invites feedback»European Ombudsman". Ombudsman.europa.eu. Retrieved 2014-08-15.
- "Refusal of the Stop TTIP ICE". 2014-09-10. Retrieved 2015-05-11.
- ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative – European Citizens' Initiative on the European Commission's website
- European Citizens' Initiative on the initiators' websites:
- citizens-initiative.eu (also: ecicampaign.org) – European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) on the ECI Campaign / Citizens of Europe web
- democracy-international.org/eci.html – European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) on the Democracy International web
- mehr-demokratie.de/eu-buergerinitiative.html – Europäische Bürgerinitiative on the Mehr Demokratie (More Democracy) web
- Further, other websites:
- clicknsign.eu – ClicknSign, "the first social platform dedicated to citizens' empowerment through the ECI"
- Websites of (some) European Citizens' Initiatives (in order of registration):
- ECI/s on citizens-initiative.eu (also: ecicampaign.org) one of the ECI initiators' websites:
- European Citizens’ Initiative – in that section: What is the ECI? / Open ECIs / Closed ECIs / Rejected ECIs / An overview of the first 2 years of the European Citizens’ Initiative
- ECIs on the Commission's website:
- Closed (finalised) initiatives:
- Obsolete initiatives:
- Refused initiatives:
- Refused requests for registration – did not comply with the conditions according to Art.4(2) of the Regulation on the ECI, with the negative Commission's replies