December 7, 2010
Regarding ‘EU institutions close in on citizens’ petitions‘:
While publicly EU decision-makers congratulate themselves for delivering a consensus regulation on the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), privately they are ensuring the ECI can never actually be used.
As your article noted, a few changes to the European Commission’s initial proposal have made the ECI regulation simpler. However, if accepted, two aspects of the consensus regulation now being discussed in technical negotiations would kill this important new democratic tool before it is even born.
1) If the European Commission may unilaterally determine whether a successful ECI results in a public hearing, rather than making a public hearing with the Commission mandatory.
2) If member states may collect intrusive personal data such as ID card numbers from ECI supporters even when this is not technically necessary to verify ECIs.
Based on the experience of informal citizens’ initiatives, such as the European Disability Forum’s ‘1million4disability’ campaign, the potential payoff of an ECI must be significant enough to justify the considerable time and resources needed to sponsor one. A mandatory public hearing with the European Commission is the bare minimum. This is what the European Parliament requested. This is what citizens deserve.
The European Data Protection Supervisor determined that ID card numbers are not necessary for member states to verify ECIs and recommended their removal from ECI forms. The European Parliament firmly opposes their collection. In addition, different rules on personal data requirements in different member states will result in de-facto discrimination based on nationality. How then can Member States still require, with no justification, that EU citizens living in their country provide ID card numbers?
We urge EU decision-makers to show respect for EU citizens and give them a citizens’ initiative right they can actually use. To do any less would be a cruel deception to the millions of Europeans who actually believe that their voice can make a difference in EU policy and have demonstrated this by supporting over 20 informal citizens’ initiatives. A failed ECI would deliver a tremendous blow to democracy in the EU.
ECI Campaign DirectorAuthor : Letters to the EurActiv editor