The citizens' initiative needs to be a simple and user-friendly tool, members of the EP Constitutional Affairs Committee were told on Tuesday. An earlier admissibility check, a lower threshold for the number of participating countries and an easier signing process were among suggestions made by MEPs who are drafting a report on the matter.
The citizens' initiative is a new instrument introduced by the Lisbon Treaty whereby one million EU citizens may ask the European Commission to propose a new EU law. To put this tool in place as soon as possible, the Constitutional Affairs Committee rapporteurs, Alain Lamassoure (EPP, FR) and Zita Gurmai (S&D, HU), are working closely with the two Petitions Committee rapporteurs, Diana Wallis (ALDE, UK) and Gerald Häfner (Greens/EFA, DE).
Alain Lamassoure stressed the urgency of the issue, adding that there was "a group of four rapporteurs so the four main groups are represented in the team preparing the report". Zita Gurmai said "all four of us have a simple aim: to have as many citizens' initiatives as possible".
Admissibility check in the beginning
Giving the first presentation of their report to the Constitutional Affairs Committee, the rapporteurs suggest that, contrary to the Commission proposal of checking the admissibility of an initiative only after 300,000 signatures have been collected, the check should be done at the point of registration on the Commission website. The earlier check would guarantee that citizens do not end up signing initiatives that do not meet the criteria.
To ensure that the initiatives are serious in nature and have a European dimension, the draft report suggests a citizens' committee of at least seven members coming from seven Member States should be set up to register an initiative. A Commission representative replied that scrapping the requirement of 300,000 signatures for an admissibility check could be done if a citizens' committee were used instead.
A lower threshold for the number of Member States?
The Lisbon Treaty says the signatories of a citizens' initiative have to come from a "significant number" of Member States. The Commission and Council have stated that this figure should be one third of the Member States, while Parliament's rapporteurs argue one fifth is enough. This would bring the number down from nine to six countries.
The draft report aims also at simplifying the signing of initiatives by deleting the obligation to give an ID card number when signing. This suggestion was, however, contested by a Council representative who argued that Member States have to be able to verify the authenticity of the signatures.
The Constitutional Affairs Committee plans to vote on the report on the citizens' initiative at its next meeting on 29-30 November. The plenary vote could then be held in December. The Member States have asked for 12 months for national implementation of the new legislation.
In the chair: Carlo CASINI (EPP, IT)