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Procedure : 2014/2218(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A8-0361/2015

Texts tabled :

A8-0361/2015

Debates :

PV 21/01/2016 - 6
CRE 21/01/2016 - 6

Votes :

PV 21/01/2016 - 8.6
CRE 21/01/2016 - 8.6
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P8_TA(2016)0021

Texts adopted
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Thursday, 21 January 2016 - Strasbourg Final edition
Activities of the Committee on Petitions 2014
P8_TA(2016)0021A8-0361/2015

European Parliament resolution of 21 January 2016 on the activities of the Committee on Petitions 2014 (2014/2218(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the outcome of the Committee on Petitions’ deliberations,

–  having regard to Articles 10 and 11 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU),

–  having regard to the significance of the right to petition and the importance for Parliament of being immediately aware of the specific concerns of European Union citizens or residents, as provided for in Articles 24 and 227 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),

–  having regard to Article 228 TFEU,

–  having regard to Article 44 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union concerning the right to petition the European Parliament,

–  having regard to the provisions of the TFEU relating to the infringement procedure and in particular Articles 258 and 260 thereof,

–  having regard to Rules 52, 215, 216(8), 217 and 218 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Petitions (A8-0361/2015),

A.  whereas 2 714 petitions were received in 2014, which is almost 6 % down on the figure for 2013 when 2 885 petitions were lodged with Parliament; whereas 790 petitions were considered admissible and followed up; whereas 1 070 petitions were considered inadmissible; whereas 817 petitions were admissible and have been closed; whereas 37 petitions had their recommendation challenged; whereas these figures amount to nearly twice as many petitions as were received in 2009; whereas there has not been an commensurate increase in the number of civil servants tasked with processing these petitions;

B.  whereas the purpose of the annual report on the activities of the Committee on Petitions is to present an analysis of the petitions received in 2014 as well as to discuss possible improvements in procedures and in relations with other institutions;

C.  whereas the number of petitions received is modest when compared to the EU’s total population, which indicates that the vast majority of EU citizens are not yet aware of the right to petition, or of its possible usefulness as a means of drawing the attention of the EU institutions and the Member States to matters which affect them and about which they are concerned; whereas even though some EU citizens are aware of the petition process, there is still widespread confusion about the EU's field of activity, as is shown by the high number of inadmissible petitions received (39,4 %);

D.  whereas a proper treatment of petitions throughout the whole process is crucial to ensuring recognition that the right to petition is respected; whereas petitioners tend to be citizens engaged in the improvement, and the future wellbeing, of our societies; whereas the experience of these citizens with regard to how their petitions are treated could determine their future opinion on the European project;

E.  whereas 1 887 petitions, of which 1 070 petitions were inadmissible, were closed in 2014; whereas only 29,1 % of petitions were declared admissible and followed up, 39,4 % were declared inadmissible, and 30,1 % were declared admissible and closed directly;

F.  whereas the citizens of the EU are represented by the only EU institution directly elected by them, namely the European Parliament; whereas the right to petition gives them the means to draw the attention of their elected representatives;

G.  whereas the citizens of the EU, and the culture of service on their behalf, should always have priority in the work of Parliament, and, in particular, of the Committee on Petitions, before any other considerations or efficiency criteria; whereas the current level of human resources available within the petitions unit puts at risk the accomplishment of these fundamental principles;

H.  whereas, if fully respected in its essence, the right to petition may strengthen Parliament’s responsiveness to EU citizens and residents, if there is an open, democratic, inclusive and transparent mechanism at all stages of the petitions procedure, with the aim of resolving problems relating primarily to the application of EU legislation;

I.  whereas the right of petition is a crucial element of participatory democracy;

J.  whereas the right to petition aims, along with the European Ombudsman, at dealing with maladministration on the part of EU institutions, or national institutions, when implementing EU law;

K.  whereas petitions provide valuable feedback to legislators and executive bodies both at EU and national level, particularly on possible loopholes in the implementation of EU legislation; whereas petitions can be an early warning for Member States lagging in implementing EU law;

L.  whereas petitions which have been addressed to the Committee on Petitions have often provided other Parliament committees with useful and direct input for their legislative work in their respective fields;

M.  whereas ensuring due respect for the fundamental right to petition is not solely the responsibility of the Committee on Petitions, but should rather be a shared endeavour of all Parliament committees, as well as of the other EU institutions; whereas no petition should be closed while awaiting feedback from other parliamentary committees;

N.  whereas the Committee on Petitions should endeavour to make a greater use of its prerogatives, and its general and specific committee tools, such as oral questions and short resolutions, so as to give visibility, on the basis of the petitions received, to the different issues of concern to EU citizens and residents, bringing them forward to the plenary of this Parliament;

O.  whereas each petition must carefully, efficiently, promptly, transparently and individually be assessed and dealt with in a manner that preserves the participatory rights of the Members of the Committee on Petitions; whereas each petitioner must receive a reply, within a short period of time, indicating either the grounds for closing the petition or the follow up, execution and monitoring measures undertaken; whereas better institutional coordination with institutions at EU, national and regional level is essential if the issues raised by petitions are to be addressed in a prompt manner;

P.  whereas efficient and prompt processing of petitions must be guaranteed, including during the transition between legislative terms and the subsequent changes in personnel;

Q.  whereas it is primarily in the interest of admissible and well‑founded petitions that the work of the Committee on Petitions is not burdened with unduly lengthy dealings with inadmissible or unfounded petitions;

R.  whereas a petitioner must be duly informed about the grounds for declaring a petition inadmissible;

S.  whereas petitions are discussed in meetings of the Committee on Petitions, and whereas petitioners may take part in these discussion, and have the right to present their petitions along with more detailed information, and may thus actively contribute to the work of the Committee, providing its members, the Commission and any representatives of the Member States who may be present with additional information; whereas in 2014, 127 petitioners attended, and were involved in, the Committee’s deliberations; whereas this ratio of direct involvement remains relatively low and should be increased, including through the use of remote communication means, and through scheduling, to enable petitioners to organise their coming before the committee better;

T.  whereas, on many occasions following public debate in committee meetings, the petitions are left open, further follow-up is foreseen and feedback is expected, namely additional inquiries from the Commission or from parliamentary committees, or concrete exchange with the national or regional authorities concerned;

U.  whereas in order to allow a broad range of topics to be discussed, and to ensure the quality of each debate, more meeting time is needed; whereas meetings of political group coordinators are crucial for ensuring smooth planning and running of the Committee’s work, and enough time should therefore be given to allow for democratic decision making;

V.  whereas the Committee on Petitions bases its activities on written information provided by petitioners, and by their oral and audiovisual input during meetings, supplemented by expertise from the Commission, the Member States, the Ombudsman and other political representative bodies;

W.  whereas petitioners’ concerns should duly be addressed in a thorough manner throughout the petition process; whereas this process may require different stages, including several rounds of feedback from the petitioner and from the European institutions and national authorities concerned;

X.  whereas the criteria established for the admissibility of petitions, pursuant to the Treaty and Parliament’s own Rules of Procedure, state that petitions shall satisfy the formal conditions governing admissibility (Rule 215 of the Rules of Procedure), namely that a petition must concern a matter which comes within the European Union’s fields of activity and directly affect the petitioner, who must be a citizen of the European Union or reside there; whereas as a result of this a proportion of petitions received are declared inadmissible because they do not comply with these official criteria; whereas the decision on admissibility corresponds rather to such legal and technical criteria, and should not be determined by political decisions; whereas the petitions web portal should be an effective tool in providing the necessary information and guidance to petitioners with regard to the admissibility criteria;

Y.  whereas a specific way of handling petitions relating to children has now been adopted, in recognition of the fact that any delay in these cases constitutes a particularly serious injury to those involved;

Z.  whereas through y use of petitions the EU’s citizens can monitor the drawing up and application of EU law; whereas this allows EU citizens to act as a useful source of information on requests with regard to, and breaches of, EU law, the latter of particular relevance to matters concerning the environment, the internal market, the recognition of vocational qualifications, consumer protection and the financial services sector;

AA.  whereas a petition is often filed at the same time as a complaint to the Commission, which may lead to infringement proceedings being initiated or to an action for failure to act; whereas statistics show (see the 23rd Report from the Commission on monitoring the application of EU law (COM(2006)0416)) that one quarter – or even one third – of the petitions and complaints processed were linked to infringement procedures or gave rise to such procedures; whereas the involvement of Parliament in these petition procedures grants an extra scrutiny of the investigative work of the competent EU institutions; whereas no petitions should be closed while it is being investigated by the Commission;

AB.  whereas the key issues of concern raised in petitions pertain to a wide range of issues, such as environmental legislation (in particular with regard to water and waste management, hydrocarbon prospection and extraction, and major infrastructure and development projects), fundamental rights (in particular the rights of the child and of persons with disabilities, of particular relevance given that up to one quarter of the EU electorate claims some degree of impairment or disability), the free movement of persons, discrimination, immigration, employment, negotiation on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), animal welfare, the application of justice, and the social inclusion of persons with disabilities;

AC.  whereas the web portal of the Committee on Petitions was launched on 19 November 2014, with a year’s delay, to replace the electronic platform for filing petitions previously available on the Europarl portal, and was conceived in order to promote the right to petition and enhance citizens’ active participation in the life of the EU; whereas this portal, not yet fully operational, has been designed to provide an integrated solution covering the specific needs of the petition process, giving EU citizens wishing to file a petition an internet tool better suited to their needs, with a real time follow-up of the various stages of their petitions; whereas several shortcoming have been identified, especially with regard to the search function, that undermine the role of the portal as a public register of petitions, and whereas the second phase, aimed at resolving all the existing loopholes, should have already been concluded; whereas the portal can help improve the service and its visibility for citizens and Committee members, and will act as an electronic register (planned in Rule 216(4) of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure) allowing citizens to file and keep track of petitions, and to affix their electronic signature to their own petitions; whereas the new portal is intended to make the petition procedure more transparent and interactive, and administrative aspects more efficient, in the interest of petitioners, Members and the general public; whereas the web portal should be the tool by which means transparency in the petition process can be increased, petitioners' access to information enhanced and citizens sensitized to the capacity and possibilities of the Committee on Petitions to help them to redress their situation; emphasises that the use of new information and communication technology should be increased and further stimulated in order to bring the Committee’s work closer to the citizens;

AD.  whereas the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is an important tool for enabling citizens to participate in the EU political decision-making process, and its potential must be exploited fully; whereas, in order to achieve the best results in terms of citizen's participation, this instrument should be improved further, its levels of representation – and the practical aspects thereof – enhanced, and it should be fully respected and implemented by the European institutions (the Commission in particular);

AE.  whereas the Committee on Petitions continues to maintain an active interest in the implementation of the Regulation on the European Citizens’ Initiative, and is mindful of the need for a new regulation in order to eliminate its many deficiencies, obstacles and weaknesses, and the cumbersome nature of the existing legal framework and the required mechanisms to launch and follow-up on an ECI, particularly in terms of the actual collection of signatures;

AF.  whereas the Committee on Petitions is of the opinion that, three years after the entry into force on 1 April 2012 of Regulation (EU) No 211/2011, its implementation should be assessed in order to identify weaknesses and propose viable solutions for its swift revision, so that its implementation can be improved;

AG.  whereas the public hearings organised for successful initiatives have been a success, and whereas the involvement and participation of the Committee on Petitions, as the committee associated in ECI hearings, has been greatly appreciated by the Members and by civil society; whereas the Committee on Petitions supports this process and places its long experience of working with citizens at the service of this objective; whereas a concrete follow-up would be expected from the Commission for any successful ECIs;

AH.  whereas it should be noted that, owing to the workload of the Committee on Petition and the need to increase human resources at the Secretariat of the Committee on Petitions, no fact-finding visits took place for petitions for which an inquiry was ongoing during 2014; whereas fact-finding visits in conjunction with appropriate petitions will be carried out in the future;

AI.  whereas the normal amount of fact-finding visits should be resumed in 2016, given that they are specific prerogative of the Committee and a fundamental part of its work, which entails interacting with citizens and authorities in the Member States concerned; whereas members of such delegations take part in all related activities, including reporting, on an equal footing;

AJ.  whereas the Committee on Petitions has responsibilities with regard to the Office of the European Ombudsman, which is responsible for investigating complaints from EU citizens about possible maladministration within the EU institutions and bodies, and about which the Committee also produces an Annual Report, based on the European Ombudsman’s own Annual Report; whereas in 2014 the Committee played an active and direct role in the organisation of the election of the European Ombudsman under Rule 204 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure; whereas Ms Emily O’Reilly was returned to the office of Ombudsman for a five-year term in an election in December 2014 that was conducted an efficient and transparent manner;

AK.  whereas the Committee on Petitions is a member of the European Network of Ombudsmen, to which, where they exist, petitions committees from the national parliaments also belong, and whereas it is important that the parliaments of the Member States appoint petitions committees, and strengthen them where they already exist, and that cooperation between them be improved;

1.  Stresses the work to be undertaken by the Committee on Petitions, allowing EU citizens and residents some involvement in defending and promoting their rights and in monitoring correct application of Union regulations, as their petitions ensure that citizens' concerns are known so that their legitimate grievances can be resolved within a reasonable timeframe; points out that admissible petitions should be discussed in the Committee within nine months of the petition being filed; reiterates that better institutional coordination with institutions at EU, national and regional level, as well as with other bodies, is essential if the issues raised by petitions are to be addressed promptly;

2.  Stresses that the Committee on Petitions (as the contact point for citizens), the European Ombudsman and the ECI together constitute a set of basic tools for greater political involvement for citizens, for whom transparent, appropriate access to, and smooth running of, must be ensured; underlines the responsibility that these have in promoting European citizenship and strengthening the visibility and credibility of the EU institutions; calls for the EU institutions to take greater account of the work carried out by the European Ombudsman; calls for additional mechanisms to ensure the direct involvement of citizens in the decision-making processes of the European institutions;

3.  Stresses that increased cooperation with national, regional and local authorities on matters linked to the application of EU law is essential to the aim of working towards reconnecting with EU citizens and reinforcing the democratic legitimacy of, and accountability in, Parliament’s decision-making process; notes that cooperation is enhanced by proactive exchange of information, at all institutional levels, and that this is key to addressing issues raised by petitioners; regrets that, in certain cases, national, regional and local authorities do not respond to the Committee on Petitions' requests;

4.  Warns about the persisting backlog in the treatment of petitions, which is due to the constraint in the human resources available within the Committee's Secretariat, which in turn has a clear impact on the time available to process petitions and, in particularly, to determine their admissibility; considers that such delays are not acceptable if the aim is to ensure service excellence, and that they not only undermine the effective right to petition, but also harm the credibility of the European institutions in the eyes of concerned citizens; exhorts the responsible political and administrative instances of Parliament, in cooperation with the Committee on Budgets, to find an appropriate solution to ensure that the work of the Committee on Petitions can live up to the spirit of the Treaties;

5.  Emphasises the requirement that the inadmissibility or closure of a petition on account of it being unfounded must be carefully justified vis‑à‑vis the petitioner;

6.  Calls on the Committee on Petitions and, if necessary, the Parliament committees responsible for amending the Rules of Procedure, to structure more clearly the distinction between the criteria for determining whether a petition is well-founded and the rules for determining its admissibility, and between keeping a petition open or closing it, and also to make this structure apparent to potential petitioners;

7.  Stresses the Commission’s significant role in assisting with cases raised by petitioners, and calls on it to monitor, in a proactive and timely fashion, certain projects reported by petitioners in which EU law has been, or will in the future be, breached through the implementation of official planning; calls on the Commission, as guardian of the Treaties, to remedy such instances of incorrect transposition of EU law, or of failure to transpose EU law, as have been reported in a large number of petitions filed with Parliament; calls as well on the Commission to be less hesitant in making use of the initiation of infringement proceedings in this regard; emphasises that the impression that greater account is taken of larger Member States when infringement proceedings are initiated must be counteracted; calls on the Commission to keep the Committee on Petitions informed, on a regular basis, of developments in, and of the concrete outcome of, infringement proceedings directly linked to any given petition;

8.  Calls on the Commission to engage fully in the process of petitions, in particular by conducting thorough inquiries of the admissible cases submitted to it, and, ultimately, to provide accurate and updated answers to the petitioners in writing in a timely manner; expects these replies to be developed further in the oral debates on these issues in the public meetings of the Committee on Petitions; considers that, for the purpose of institutional credibility, the Commission should be represented in such debates by an official with appropriate rank; considers that, as guardian of the Treaties, the Commission should enter more fully into the substance of cases, taking into account the ultimate spirit of the relevant EU legislation;

9.  Requests that, for the sake of transparency and in the spirit of faithful cooperation between the different EU institutions, the Commission facilitate access to documents with all relevant information related to EU Pilot procedures, particularly with regard to petitions received, including exchanges of questions and answers between the Commission and the Member States concerned, at least when the procedures are concluded;

10.  Stresses the importance of proactive monitoring, and timely preventive action, by the Commission where there is well-founded evidence that certain planned and published projects may breach EU legislation; is worried by the current trend within the Commission to inhibit inquiries into the substance of many petitions on the basis of purely procedural grounds; disagrees with the repeated suggestions to close many files pertaining to specific petitions without waiting for the outcomes of the examinations of the issues they raise, and believes that this is not in line with the spirit of the Commission's ultimate role as guardian of the Treaties; calls for even more scrupulous attention, and for consequent action, in particular in cases presented by petitioners involving possible breaches of EU legislation by the Commission itself, for instance in the field of public access to documents, as guaranteed by the Aarhus Convention;

11.  Points out the importance of ensuring that the Commission responds to all petitions in a detailed and proactive manner, and as promptly as possible;

12.  Requests that, in light of the special nature of this Committee and the significant workload associated with its contact with the thousands of citizens and residents who file petitions every year, the human resources available to its Secretariat be increased;

13.  Stresses the need to improve correspondence with citizens with the aim of processing their demands;

14.  Considers it essential that cooperation with the national parliaments, and their relevant committees, and with the governments of the Member States be strengthened, and that Member State authorities be encouraged to be fully transparent in transposing and applying EU law; stresses the importance of collaboration with the Commission and the Member States with the aim of defending the rights of citizens in a more effective and more transparent manner, and encourages the presence of representatives of Member States at meetings; highlights the need for Council and Commission representatives of the highest possible rank to be present at Committee meetings and hearings where the content of the issues discussed require the implication of the aforementioned institutions; reiterates the call of its resolution of 11 March 2014 on the activities of the Committee on Petitions 2013(1) for launching an enhanced structured dialogue with Member States, namely by holding regular meetings with members from national committees on petitions or other competent authorities;

15.  Calls on the Member States to standardise in law the obligation to create well-functioning petition committees in national parliaments, which would increase the effectiveness of the cooperation between the Committee on Petitions and the national parliaments;

16.  Considers it essential that the Committee strengthens its cooperation with other committees of Parliament by means of asking their opinion on petitions, inviting their members to attend debates in their respective areas of responsibility, and participating more in their work as committee for the opinion on certain reports, in particular reports on the proper transposition and implementation of EU law in the Member States; requests that the competent committees give the petitions forwarded to them due consideration and that they provide feedback needed for the correct treatment of petitions;

17.  Underlines the growing importance of the Committee on Petitions as a scrutiny committee that should be a point of reference for the transposition and implementation of the European legislation at the administrative level in the Member states; reiterates the call for more political debates during the plenary sessions, and for a more vivid communication on the petitions of European citizens, expressed in its above-mentioned resolution on the activities of the Committee on Petitions 2013;

18.  Regrets that more petitioners cannot directly present their cases to the Committee on Petitions, partly because of the lack of meeting time and of human resources at the Committee Secretariat; calls for the time periods within which petitioners are informed of the handling of their petitions, and of their passage before the committee, to be improved; supports the increased use of videoconferencing, or of any other means enabling petitioners to become actively involved in the work of the Committee on Petitions, even when they cannot be physically present;

19.  Calls for the prompt establishment an informal petitions network within Parliament, with the participation of Members representing every committee of Parliament in order to ensure smooth and effective coordination of work in relation to petitions, which will improve the exercise of the right to petition;

20.  Points out the important role that other committees of Parliament have to play, including their handling in meetings of matters set forth in petitions pertaining to their respective areas of responsibility, and, when relevant, their use of petitions received as a source of information for legislative processes;

21.  Deplores the fact that the Charter of Fundamental Rights has not been adopted in all Member States, and that many people have found its implementation to be unclear and, to some extent, disappointing; deplores as well the fact that the European Convention on Human Rights has not yet been adopted by the EU as such within the meaning of Article 6(2) TEU, and that European citizens do not have access to sufficient information concerning the procedures in place in this regard; deplores the strict way in which the Commission has interpreted Article 51 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, with its stipulation that the provisions of the Charter be addressed to the institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union with due regard for the principle of subsidiarity and to the Member States only when they are implementing Union law; recalls that the Commission has often said it is unable to act in the area of fundamental rights, when the Committee has so requested, citing Article 51 of the Charter; stresses the fact that the expectations of citizens often go beyond what the Charter’s strictly legal provisions allow for; calls on the Commission to do more to meet citizens’ expectations and to find a new approach to the interpretation of Article 51;

22.  Points to the important work carried out by the Committee on Petitions in the context of the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; takes due note, in this regard, of the concluding observations by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the initial report of the European Union(2); highlights that the European Union Framework should be adequately resourced, in line with the requirements of the Convention; calls, in this respect, for the capacity of the Committee on Petitions and its Secretariat to be enhanced, enabling the Committee properly to fulfil its protection role; calls for the establishment of a designated officer responsible for the processing of disabilities-related issues; emphasises the Committee's willingness to work closely with other legislative committees involved in Parliament’s network on disabilities; notes the need for further efforts and action on behalf of the Committee in the protection of people with disabilities, such as actions directed to promote the swift ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty;

23.  Stresses citizens’ concern regarding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations in which the Commission is participating, as highlighted in numerous petitions received in 2014; points to the importance of the Commission urgently implementing the recommendations made by the European Ombudsman in this regard;

24.  Points to the opinion issued by the Committee regarding the recommendations of the Commission on the negotiations for the TTIP, in which, as highlighted in numerous petitions received, it rejects the arbitration instrument known as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and regrets that the ECI against the TTIP was rejected;

25.  Regrets that some Member States have not yet ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and calls on them to sign and ratify it as soon as possible;

26.  Calls for the EU and the Member States to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities;

27.  Calls on the Member States to sign and ratify the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities without further delay;

28.  Notes the particular attention paid to certain petitions concerning the plan to explore for, and exploit, possible oil reserves in the Canary Islands; acknowledges that petitioners who opposed the plan on environmental grounds have contributed significantly to clarifying the debate; recognises that environmental issues remain a priority for petitioners, thus highlighting where Member States fall short in this area; notes that a number of these petitions deal with waste management, the safety of water supply, nuclear energy, fracking and the protection of animal species;

29.  Stresses the high number of petitions received that reject the use of hydraulic fracturing for the extraction of gas and oil from the subsoil, and that highlight the environmental, economic and social consequences linked to the use of this technique;

30.  Denounces in particular the practice of ‘slicing up’ files, used repeatedly with regard to major infrastructure or drilling projects that form the basis of numerous petitions on environmental issues;

31.  Notes the concerns of petitioners regarding alleged instances of injustice that have occurred in the course of administrative and judicial procedures for the separation or divorce of parents in which issues concerning the custody of young children and forced adoptions are raised; notes, in this context, that in some Member States, in the case of bi-national couples, discrimination on grounds of nationality may occur in favour of the parent from the Member State in which the proceedings take place and against the non-national of that state, with severe and often very dramatic repercussions on the rights of the child; stresses that it has been notified of cases involving several Member States (Germany (notably with reference to the work of the Child and Youth Welfare Office), France, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Denmark) and Norway, and welcomes, in this regard, the upcoming revision in 2016 of Regulation Brussels IIa; stresses that in 2015 a new working group, charged with providing a quick and coherent response to these concerns, was created within the Committee on Petitions, and it has undertaken a fact-finding visit to the United Kingdom in order to investigate complaints of this nature in situ;

32.  Points out the large number of petitions received that fiercely criticise, and warn of the consequences of, the EU's migration, trade and external policies in terms of their compliance with provisions to ensure the human rights of migrants; points out the obligation of all EU agencies, bodies and institutions, including Frontex, to ensure, at all times, respect for human rights, and compliance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights, in their respective fields of activity;

33.  Welcomes the social dialogue ‘European Forum on the Rights of the Child’, organised annually at the Commission’s initiative since 2007, the aim of which is to support children’s rights as part of EU internal and external measures; notes that the participants in this dialogue are representatives of the Member States, children’s rights representatives, the Committee of the Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, the Council of Europe, UNICEF and a number of NGOs;

34.  Stresses the wide range of the subjects raised in the petitions filed by citizens, such as fundamental rights, human rights, the rights of persons with disabilities, the internal market, environmental law, labour relations, migration policies, trade agreements, public health issues, child welfare, transport, animal rights and discrimination; calls on the Committee on Petitions to specialise its work further on the major policies to which petitioners refer; requests that, in order for the Committee to be able to deal with all this intensive and extensive range of petitions, more resources be allocated to its Secretariat;

35.  Believes that the organisation of public hearings is an important way of examining problems raised by petitioners; wishes to draw attention to the public hearings organised with the Committee on the Environment in response to the ECI on ‘Water is a Human Right’, and with the Committee on Legal Affairs for the ECI entitled ‘One of Us’; believes that the ECI is an instrument that promotes transnational, participatory and representative democracy that, once a new regulation is approved, may enable citizens to be more directly involved in the framing, raising and prioritising of EU policies and legislation issues that need to be addressed; reaffirms its commitment to being involved, proactively, in organising public hearings for successful initiatives; undertakes to give priority, at institutional level, to the effectiveness of this participative process and to ensuring due legislative follow-up where appropriate; welcomes the use in hearings of accessibility features for persons with disabilities, such as the text-to-speech screen;

36.  Deplores the Commission’s reply to the few successful ECIs and regrets, that there has been little follow up to the only instrument of transnational democracy in the EU;

37.  Draws attention to several resolutions adopted in 2014, such as its resolution of 12 March 2014 on the EU Citizenship Report 2013, ‘EU Citizens: your rights, your future’(3), which has led to debates on the harmonisation of pension rights and on citizens’ right to vote and stand for election; draws attention to the Committee’s annual report on the Committee’s activities 2013 (A7-0131/2014) and to its resolution of 15 January 2015 on the annual report on the activities of the European Ombudsman 2013(4), particularly as regards the TTIP agreement;

38.  Welcomes the Commission’s decision to continue activities initiated in 2013 under the banner of the ‘European Year of Citizens’ in 2014 by focusing more on the European elections (held between 22 and 25 May 2014); welcomes the Commission’s readiness to inform citizens about the tools placed at their disposal so that they can participate in the EU’s decision-making process, as well as its readiness, at that point in time, to provide EU citizens with information and advice on their rights and on the democratic instruments available for defending them; stresses that further efforts should be made in order to raise awareness about the European elections, given the turn-out to the 2014 elections fell short of 50 % in many Member States;

39.  Stresses the importance of ensuring that the Committee on Petitions has a fully operational internet portal through which petitioners may effectively register, submit their petition, upload supporting documents, support admissible petitions and receive information about, as well as automatic e-mail alerts about changes to the status of, their petitions, and through which they can contact EU officials directly in order to obtain clear, straightforward information concerning progress on the issues raised in their petitions; regrets that the expected implementation timeframe has not been accomplished, and that many of the expected features remain incomplete; urges the responsible administrative bodies to speed-up the necessary steps to conclude the implementation of the remaining phases of the project and correct any existing shortcoming; stresses that further steps should be taken to enhance the transparency of the petition process;

40.  Calls for a common approach by Parliament, national parliaments and authorities at lower levels in the Member States, with appropriate appeal bodies, in order to make it transparently clear to citizens which level, and which instance, can by addressed by their petitions;

41.  Calls for an effective assessment of the Petitions Secretariat staff, focused on ensuring adequacy in a qualitative and quantitative terms, in recognition of the large accumulation of petitions and the ongoing delays in their processing; believes that adequate treatment and consideration of approved petitions, along with the delivery of fair feedback to petitioners, is key to strengthening the bonds between European civil society and the European institutions;

42.  Stresses the need to ensure more constructive information for citizens via the Committee on Petitions web portal through the organisation of training seminars in the Member States;

43.  Emphasises the important role of the SOLVIT network, which regularly uncovers and resolves problems associated with the implementation of internal market legislation; urges the Commission to upgrade this tool, to allow members of the Committee on Petitions to have access to all information available through SOLVIT, and to keep them informed in cases pertaining to filed petitions;

44.  Highlights the need for the Committee on Petitions to step up its collaboration with other EU institutions and bodies, and with the national authorities in the Member States; considers enhanced dialogues and systematic cooperation with Member States, especially with the petitions committees of the national parliaments, to be essential; recommends that all Member States parliaments that have not yet done so form petitions committees; considers the visit to the Committee on 2 December 2014 by a delegation of the petitions committee of the Scottish Parliament to be an example of such collaboration, and that partnerships of this kind will make it possible to share best practices, pool experiences gained and bring to fruition an efficacious and systematic procedure for forwarding petitions to the bodies responsible;

45.  Stresses that close cooperation with the Member States is essential for the work of the Committee on Petitions; encourages the Member States to play a proactive role in responding to petitions pertaining to the implementation and enforcement of EU law, and considers the presence and the active cooperation of Member State representatives at meetings of the Committee on Petitions to be of great importance; points to the presence of representatives of the Greek Government at the meeting of 10 February 2014, at which the report on the fact-finding visit to Greece concerning waste management (18-20 September 2013) was presented;

46.  Recalls that fact-finding visits are one of the most important investigation tools that the Committee on Petitions has, as foreseen in the rules, even though there were none in 2014; considers it essential that the follow up of petitions under investigation during the fact-finding visits does not come to a standstill, including between European elections and the reconstitution of Parliament, and calls on the committees of Parliament to make appropriate arrangements; stresses the need for fact-finding visits to result in clear recommendations focused on the resolution of petitioners’ problems; expects the regular activity of the Committee on Petitions, in terms of fact-finding visits, to be resumed as of 2016;

47.  Calls on Greece to take note of the recommendations made in the report on the fact-finding visit on waste collection and the siting of landfills in Greece, which was adopted by the Committee in February 2014; calls on the Commission to monitor carefully the use made of funds allocated to waste collection; calls on the Member States to comply with the EU directives on recycling waste;

48.  Attaches great importance to the presence and active cooperation of representatives of the Member States during meetings of the Committee on Petitions; welcomes and encourages the presence of representatives from the public authorities of the Member State concerned, their participation and their active cooperation; encourages all Member States to participate actively in the petition process;

49.  Stresses the importance of cooperation with the European Ombudsman, as well as of the involvement of Parliament in the European Network of Ombudsmen; applauds the excellent relations in the institutional framework between the Ombudsman and the Committee on Petitions; appreciates especially the Ombudsman’s regular contributions to the work of the Committee on Petitions throughout the year;

50.  Looks forward to enhancing the cooperation with the petitions committees of national and regional parliaments of the different Members States, where these exist; is committed to providing guidance in setting up such committees in those remaining Member States that are willing to do so;

51.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution, and the report of the Committee on Petitions, to the Council, the Commission, the European Ombudsman and the governments and parliaments of the Member States, their committees on petitions and their national ombudsmen or similar competent bodies.

(1) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0204.
(2) Adopted by the UN Committee at its fourteenth session (17 August-4 September 2015); see: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CRPD%2fC%2fEU%2fCO%2f1&Lang=en
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0233.
(4) Texts adopted, P8_TA(2015)0009.

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