Initiative for the
European Citizens' Initiative
The first European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) – “My vote against nuclear power” – which seeks to phase out the use of all nuclear energy within the EU and to provide for a secure energy future – was today rejected by the European Commission (EC). In its reasoning, the Commission referred to the EURATOM Treaty for the promotion of nuclear energy, alleging that the Treaty bans the use of a citizens’ initiative directed against nuclear power.
The German Federation for the Protection of The Environment and Nature (BUND), together with environmental protection organisations in eleven EU countries, aimed to start collecting signatures in June for a nuclear phaseout in Europe. The federation has announced that it will seek a juridical examination of the rejection.
The ECI Campaign shares the view of the federation president Hubert Weiger: “The Commission’s rejection harms the development of democracy in the European Union”. (Check the ECI organizers statement in English and German). This is the first of the ECIs so far submitted that has not been registered by the EU Commission – for inexplicable reasons. The ECI Campaign would like to see greater transparency in relation to the registration of new ECIs. It would be important to know about all seven initiatives which were submitted but not registered – i.e. the ones that fell at the first admissibility hurdle.
There could be several reasons why an ECI is not registered. First of all, an ECI can be rejected if it contravenes the values of the EU, does not lie within the competences of the EU Commission, or is “manifestly abusive, frivolous or vexatious”. In our view, these rules are too vague and allow the Commission to block an ECI without it having been properly scrutinized in depth at an early stage.
Secondly, the EU Commission has stated it will not register ECIs which propose amendments to EU treaties. The Commission tries to justify its rejection of the Anti-Atomic ECI on the assumption that it could contravene primary law proposals. This would, however, exclude many ECIs unnecessarily from the start. As the Commission itself is entitled to propose amendments to treaties, it should be possible to launch initiatives which relate to treaty amendments. As a consequence of the current interpretation many of the expected initiatives run the high risk of being judged inadmissible.
The ECI Campaign points to further ECIs which have already been announced; initiatives, for example, on questions of independence and on data preservation. The next few weeks will show how practicable the new participatory right is at the EU level. The ECI has the potential to promote the development of a European public space, and in the longer term the development of a European civil society. However, as expressed in our press release in April 2012, only when citizens realize that their concerns are actually being taken serious will this instrument strengthen the democratic engagement of citizens. Otherwise it could simply lead to more frustration. In order to avoid this we as civil society activists must not remain in a ‘wait and see’ attitude, but join together to make the ECI a workable tool in cooperation with all stakeholders, as expressed in our recent ECI Manifesto.
The ECI Campaign is a coalition of democracy advocates, including more than 120 European NGOs. For more information contact Carsten Berg at +49-1764-3064365 or visit www.citizens-initiative.eu.