The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), has been described by many as ‘first-ever experiment in transnational participatory democracy’ and as such is, of course, particularly interesting to us and our project.
You can see the overview of first attempted and successful ECIs in this presentation by Dace Akule of Latvian Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS here.
Up until now, two routes have been available to the citizens of the European Union (EU) to influence the legislative process on the EU level – petitioning the European Parliament or contacting the EU Ombudsman. ECI would for the first time allow them to address the European Commission with their proposals.
ECI is meant to be a new participatory tool for Europeans to engage with the European Commission and propose legislation. Created in sync with the 11.4 of the Lisbon Treaty, it differs from petitioning significantly. Here is how this is explained, point to point in the official website of the ECI:
(a) Petitions can be submitted by citizens of the Union as well by natural or legal persons residing or having their registered office in a member state, either individually or in association with other citizens or persons.
(b) Petitions must concern matters which come within the Union’s fields of activity and which directly affect the petitioner(s) (e.g. a complaint).
(c) Petitions are addressed to the European Parliament in its role as the direct representative of citizens at EU level.
(d) With petitions, there are no formal requirements for a minimum number of signatures or spread of support in multiple EU countries.
(e) The citizens’ initiative, on the other hand, enables citizens to call directly on the Commission to bring forward new proposals for legal acts – if they have sufficient support across the EU.
The initiative has to be backed by one million EU citizens minimum and those have to come from at least 7 of the member states ( important to note that we are not talking about the nationality of the citizens, just the country of residence).
The initiative, its usefulness and capabilities are still being discussed, different opinions are being raised and citizens of the EU are already submitting their initiatives to the platform (such as the obsolete initiative on Ecocide and the open initiative ‘One of us‘, for example). It remains, however, to be seen, how this platform will develop and function.
And even so, it has to be noted that this a big step towards a more inclusive, participatory democracy on EU level and, sure, it won’t make the democratic deficit disappear in a heartbeat, but it will at least be a turn in the right direction.
The guide to the initiative can be downloaded here:
The Regulation on ECI can be found here:
Technical specifications of the ECI can be found here:
Maroš Šefčovič on ECI: