Democracy International: Petition Handover – “EU Commission, listen to us!”
Democracy organisations demand revision of the European Citizens’ Initiative
One day ahead of the presentation of the Commission Work Programme for 2017, the organisations Democracy International, Mehr Demokratie and The ECI Campaign handed over 40,996 signatures to Mr. Antoine Colombani, Member of Cabinet of Vice-President Frans Timmermans, for a reform of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). They call on the EU Commission to abandon its obstructive opposition and to improve the European Citizens’ Initiative in the coming year.
The three organisations demand in their petition that the Commission must come forward with a legislative proposal within one year if the EU Commission agrees to a successful European Citizens’ Initiative. They criticise many hurdles which condemn most ECIs to failure: Data requirements are inconsistent and are excessively strict in some Member States. The initiatives are not allowed to determine the start date of their yearlong signature collection. The online collection system provided by the Commission is not user-friendly and often delays the start by several months.
“Many improvements that would make the ECI more successful could easily be implemented by revising the regulation”, says Sophie von Hatzfeldt of Democracy International. “The EU Commission ought to fulfil its role as guardian of the EU Treaties, and finally make the ECI more effective and citizen-friendly.” During the handover, activists of Democracy International, Mehr Demokratie and The ECI Campaign sang, “Listen to the people. Reform the ECI!” to the melody of Frère Jacques.
“How should citizens trust the EU institutions, if these do not trust the people?”, says Carsten Berg of The ECI Campaign. “We get the impression that the Commission wants to keep the public out of politics and fob them off with a pro forma participation instrument”.
“ECIs are not allowed to propose changes to the EU Treaties, which excludes particularly exciting topics from the start”, says Michael Efler, spokesperson of Mehr Demokratie. “The growing EU-scepticism should not be countered with isolation, but with an expansion of democracy. In the longer term we will also need citizen-initiated referenda at the European level”.
The European Citizens’ Initiative came into force on 1 April 2012 and is to date the only channel for EU citizens to invite the EU Commission to propose new laws. With one million signatures from at least seven member states, the public can put a topic on the EU Commission’s agenda. Of 55 launched initiatives, 20 were declared inadmissible by the Commission. Only three ECIs have been successful, while not a single one so far has led to a change in legislation.
Already in October 2015, an alliance of democracy organisations handed to the EU Parliament almost 76,400 signatures for a more powerful ECI. While the Parliament accepted most of the reform proposals, the EU Commission still refuses to take the necessary steps for a revision.
For any questions/further information please contact:
Petition for ECI revision: www.democracy-international.org/eci-final-call
Overview of ongoing and completed ECIs: www.citizens-initiative.eu/eci/open-closed/
Overview of rejected ECIs: www.citizens-initiative.eu/eci/rejected/