The Young European Federalists (JEF Europe) welcome the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) as a unique
opportunity to breathe new life into European democracy and strengthen the participation of citizens in EU
policymaking, but it would be a terrible mistake to limit the potential of this innovative tool through inflexible and restrictive implementing rules. There is no threat that the ECI would be abused, as the Treaty of Lisbon
requires every ECI proposal to fall within the competences of the Commission and serve the implementation
of the Treaties. But if a rigid Regulation renders the ECI practically unusable, the threat is real that it could repeatedly cause frustration with the EU Institutions, widening the gap between the EU and its citizens.
This is why the four following obstacles contained in the ECI Regulation as proposed by the European
Commission on the 31st of March simply cannot be accepted:
First, the thresholds based on national criteria are too high and too complex. Citizens of EU member states
are European citizens regardless of the nationality they carry and it should therefore only take 1/4 instead of
1/3 of EU countries whose citizens are signing an ECI to constitute a significant number of member states.
In addition, 0.1% of the population of any of these member states should be the highest acceptable figure so
as to avoid overly complicated barriers, which were not even referred to in the Treaty of Lisbon.
Secondly, the precondition of first obtaining 300,000 statements of support before any legal check can take
place on the admissibility of an ECI could dissuade many organisers and cripple several initiatives. The
Commission must therefore allow the organisers of an ECI to have their proposal checked on the criteria of
admissibility before the time for the collection process starts running and not require more than 50,000
statements of support for this purpose.
As soon as the Commission has decided that an ECI proposal falls within the sphere of its competences and doesn’t violate human rights or community values, it should be consistent in its judgement and not just ignore or turn down a legally valid and successful ECI, but transfer it to the European Parliament for the consideration of MEPs.
An arbitrary follow-up would not only be discouraging, but also runs the risk of generating great disappointment with the EU among all signatories.
Thirdly, JEF-Europe strongly believes the time-frame for the collection of signatures should be at least
18 months instead of 12, stressing the fact that language differences and geographical distances have to be
overcome for the collection of one million signatures in several EU countries. The Commission is not strictly limited in time when drafting policy proposals, so why should citizens be?
Fourthly, in order to smoothen and secure the collection process, the Commission should translate the ECI
proposals that have been declared admissible into all official EU languages and must provide the possibility of
gathering e-signatures on a safe online system. The translation would ensure that all signatories are
supporting the same wording of a proposal, whilst the online platform would guarantee the participatory and
inclusive character of the ECI and prevent abuse of private data by third parties.
We are concerned about the historically low turnout at the European Parliament elections in June 2009 , which was a painful sign that should represent a wake-up call for designing innovative ways of bringing Europe closer to the citizens and the citizens closer to Europe.
This is why we strongly invite people to contribute to turning the ECI into a flexible and user-friendly tool.
Philippe Adriaenssens, President of JEF Europe (Young European Federalists)
Philipp-Maximilian Chaimowicz, citizensinitiative.eu campaignerAuthor : Letters to the EurActiv editor