European Citizens’ Initiative reform to strengthen participatory democracy
- The updated ECI mechanism aims to foster democratic debate and participation
- Processes become more effective, user-friendly and accessible for persons with disabilities
- Changes designed to ensure transparency, accountability and data protection
An improved Citizens’ Initiative, which is more accessible, inclusive and easy to use for organisers and supporters, was approved by the Constitutional Affairs Committee.
The Constitutional Affairs Committee approved on Tuesday a provisional agreement with EU Ministers, concluded in mid-December, to reform the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), by 19 votes in favour, three against and no abstentions.
A new ECI mechanism
The new mechanism will make it easier for European citizens to:
- get in touch: there will be contact points in each Member State to provide information and support to organisers;
- set up and manage an initiative: an online platform will offer relevant information, checks on the likelihood of the Commission approving registration, and pre-registration and ongoing ECI management functionality;
- collect signatures: an online free service for the collection of signatures will be provided to organisers, who will also have more flexibility to choose the starting date of their campaign as well as any of the EU official languages;
- declare their support: EU citizens will be able to sign up for an initiative regardless of where they live, providing minimal personal information and always under the protection of EU’s data privacy rules;
- follow up: the examination period will be extended from three to six months and the Parliament will be kept up to date throughout the process;
- be heard: once an ECI is successfully submitted, the organisers will be able to ask the Parliament to organise a public hearing, after which the Parliament, as institution in which citizens are directly represented, may declare its support for the initiative;
- hold organisers accountable: organisers will be required to make public detailed information on their funding, and
- get a result: the Commission will set out its legal and political conclusions on a successfully registered initiative (as well as any action it intends to take) within six months - and explain in a clear, comprehensible and detailed manner its reasoning.
MEPs also urge member states to consider reducing the minimum age for ECI participation to sixteen years.
The ECI online platform and register
The platform will be user-friendly and feature extensive disability-orientated functions to ensure that it is open to all citizens, groups of organisers, civil society organisations and external experts with experience in organising European Citizens’ Initiatives.
MEPs finally endorsed the creation of an online register run by the Commission. The register will be hosted on a public website intended to raise awareness and ensure transparency on all initiatives. As such, it will comprise two key aspects:
- comprehensive information on the European citizens’ initiative instrument, and
- up to date information on individual initiatives, their status and the declared sources of support and funding.
Following completion of the approval process by the European Parliament and the Council, a new Regulation on the European Citizens' Initiative will be published in the EU's Official Journal. The new mechanism is expected to start applying as of 1 January 2020.
European Citizens' Initiatives were first introduced in the Lisbon Treaty and came into being April 2012. Once formally registered, a European Citizens' Initiative allows one million citizens from at least one quarter of EU Member States to urge the European Commission to act in areas where it has the power to do so and doing so is in line with European values.
Since 2012, approximately 9 million Europeans from all 28 Member States have supported a European Citizens' Initiative. Four initiatives have so far been successful in collecting over 1 million signatures each and the Commission has committed to follow-up actions on three of those.
ECI reform underwent trilogue negotiations, successfully concluded in December 2018 in Strasbourg. The Commission was represented by First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and the Council by Austrian Minister Juliane Bogner-Strauss.
Rapporteur György Schöpflin (EPP, HU)