10 basic elements of fair implementation

December 5, 2009 News

The Treaty of Lisbon opens up the possibility for citizens to submit a proposal to the European Commission. At least one million EU citizens have to sign the initiative. But the wording of the article is quite open to interpretation. In our ECI-update from 23 November 2009, we present a first analysis of the Green Paper of the EU-Commission. Moreover check out the ten basic elements for a fair implementation, which are produced by an international group of experts and activists based on the best practice with citizens’ initiative rights in Europe.

1. Citizens can also call for treaty amendments
The subject-matter of an ECI must lie within the area where the European Commission has the right to make proposals. However, as the Commission itself is entitled to propose amendments to treaties, it should also be possible to launch initiatives which relate to treaty amendments.

2. No more than one million citizens
The collection of one million signatures in a significant number of member states is a sufficient hurdle.

3. 1/6 to 1/5 of member states counts as ‘significant’
An initiative should not be required to collect signatures in more than 1/6 to 1/5 of member states member states.

4. Minimum number of signatures: 0.05 %
The required minimum number of signatures coming from each country (see Point 3) should be 0.05% of the citizens entitled to vote.

5. Time period: 18 months
Initiatives should have enough time for collection of the signatures. A short time period would disadvantage smaller groups.

6. Free form of the initiative
The initiative can choose between two options:a) a general proposal mentioning the specific goal(s) of the legislation and the main measures to be introduced (or changed), orb) a draft legal act.

7. Role of the Commission
The Commission has to check whether the formal conditions of the ECI have been fulfilled and that no conflict with European law exists. The Commission has to give its reasons in case of rejection. There should be strict time limits for the subsequent treatment of the subject by the EU institutions.

8. Five Rights of the Initiative
a) Right of advice from the Commission before gathering the signatures.
b) The right to be heard by the respective institutions (Commission, Parliament, Council).
c) The right that the text of the ECI is published without delay in the Official Journal of the EU and the Official Gazettes of the member states.
d) The right to challenge a rejection before the competent European Courts.
e) A reimbursement in part of the costs.

9. Verification by member states
This question should be decided by the member states according to their national electoral laws.

10. Free collection of signatures
It should be specified that the signatures can be gathered freely (by circulation/downloading of lists to be filled in and signed) and not only in government registration offices.