Petitions: how Parliament gives people a voice 


Have a problem with your government or the European Union? The Parliament can help! Last year the EP received 2,091 petitions, which was then followed up by its petitions committee to ensure the complaint is heard at the highest level. On 21 November the Parliament approved a report on the activities of the petitions committee in 2011. Read on to discover how it works and what the most frequent complaints were.

Right to be heard

Any EU citizen or anyone who lives in the EU has the right to submit a petition to the European Parliament on anything that affects them directly and is within the remit of the EU. This can be done either individually or as part of a group. Petitions can be submitted online or by post.

What Parliament does with the petitions

The EP's petitions committee works to resolve infringements of citizens' rights through cooperation with local, regional and national authorities on the application of EU law on a range of issues. It is an investigative committee and has no legal power, but tries to find non-judicial remedies for citizens whose claims are substantiated. It can organise fact-finding visits and report to plenary. 

How many complaints?

In 2011 European Parliament received 2,091 complaints, which is almost 300 more than in 2010. However, the number of registered petitions has steadily declined. Conservative British MEP Giles Chichester, a member of the petitions committee, explains it is mostly due to a filtering out process which sends on messages that are not actual petitions - for example requests for information - to the relevant service that is able to deal with the request.

What kind of complaints?

The environment (16.1% of petitions), fundamental rights (27.9%) and internal Market (15.6%) continued to be the greatest concerns among EU citizens petitioning the Parliament in 2011. About one fifth (22%) of petitions concerned the European Union as whole. These complaints are mostly related to the crisis.

One of the most brought up issues was property rights in Spain, in particular by those affected by the 1988 Coastal law, for which 70 petitions were delivered.

Who complains?

Traditionally the biggest number of complaints has been sent from Germany (315), Spain (204) and Italy (166). The least number of complaints come from Latvia (3), Estonia (3), Luxembourg (4) and Cyprus (4). Britain came sixth with 80 complaints and Ireland 15th with 16 complaints.