Initiative for the
European Citizens' Initiative
Welcome to the Campaign for a citizen-friendly and useable designed European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) – also known as “The ECI Campaign” and the “Initiative for the European Citizens’ Initiative”.
The ECI is the first transnational instrument of participatory democracy in world history. It is considered to be one of the major innovations of the Treaty of Lisbon and enables one million EU citizens to call directly on the European Commission to propose legislation of interest to them in an area of EU competence. For a short video presentation about the ECI instrument click here.
The legal basis of the citizens’ initiative is set out in Article 11, Paragraph 4 (TEU) and Article 24, paragraph 1 (TFEU). The specific practical arrangements and procedures for launching an ECI are set out in the ECI regulation 211/2011 which is applicable since 1st of April 2012.
What is the ECI Campaign?
The ECI Campaign is a grassroots coalition of democracy advocates and over 120 European NGOs dedicated to the creation and successful implementation of a European citizens’ initiative right. The ECI Campaign successfully worked for the inclusion of the European Citizen‘s Initiative (ECI) in the draft EU Constitution and later the revised Treaty on European Union (Lisbon Treaty). It then actively lobbied for citizen-friendly rules governing its use. It currently monitors the implementation of the ECI and provides guidance to groups and individuals on using the ECI.
The ECI Campaign considers the ECI as only the first step towards more direct citizen involvement and not as an end in itself. The ECI Campaign will therefore monitor the implementation of the ECI to ensure that the ECI lives up to its potential. It will also work to remove burdensome restrictions when the ECI regulation is officially reviewed in 2015.
Specifically, we will work to:
Simplify the signature form and eliminate ID number requirements. Eighteen member states will ask their citizens for personal identification numbers when signing an ECI. Such intrusive personal data requirements are frequently unnecessary, may deter supporters and raise privacy concerns.
Extend the time limit for signature collection from 12 to 18-24 months. The proposed 12 months to collect one million signatures are too short for ECIs coordinated by smaller organisations without a huge budget or for issues that are not yet well known or understood by the general public.
Allow ECIs which propose treaty amendments. The Commission has stated it will not register ECIs which propose amendments to EU treaties. However, the law on this issue is unclear and open to challenge by the European Court of Justice.
Provide adequate practical support to ECI organisers. ECI organisers should have access to free and comprehensive information on how to conduct an ECI including a low-barrier online collection system, legal advice and translation assistance.
Citizens’ initiative rights to be workable need to be designed in a citizen-friendly and usable way. This is what The ECI Campaign has been all about. Experience in EU member states has shown that citizensʼ initiatives, if they are to be truly workable, need to be designed in a citizen-friendly way. This is all the more true for a European Citizensʼ Initiative due to the complexity of campaigning at a transnational level compared to national and regional levels. Huge geographic distances in the EU make it difficult and expensive for citizens to meet and plan. More than 20 official languages make it difficult to communicate across borders and the absence of a strong common public space makes it almost impossible to make one’s voice heard Europe-wide through the media.
We therefore have urged the EU institutions to keep the formal restrictions lower and make the supportive elements (e.g., help desk functions) for citizensʼ initiatives stronger than at national level. Without these two criteria, the ECI will not be workable. Many national citizens’ initiative rights have never been used because of excessively restrictive rules.
Since the ECI regulation was finalized, we have continued to concentrate on the fine-tuning of the practical arrangements for its implementation. Our main focus now is on solving the ID number problem and setting up an ECI Help Desk. To get an overview on the most important aspects we have campaigned for in 2010, click here and here for our final campaign with the support of Avaaz .
The ECI is a genuine creation of and for active citizens and civil society. The ECI was never a priority for and not on the wish list of EU governments. The ECI only made it into the EU treaty due to the intensive campaign work of NGOs in cooperation with like-minded parliamentarians.
Citizens from civil society organisations like Mehr Demokratie, Democracy International and IRI Europe played an important role in the inclusion of the ECI in the draft EU Constitution and then Lisbon Treaty. Carsten Berg, coordinator of The ECI Campaign, was one of the key people who collected signatures for the ECI within the Convention on the Future of Europe, read more here. Thanks to the good cooperation with Convention members like Professor Jürgen Meyer, Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann and Alain Lamassoure, the ECI found its place in the EU Treaty. Read the amazing story of how the ECI become a reality in a last minute move.
After the EU Constitutional Treaty was rejected by the French and Dutch citizens in 2005, Democracy International and the European Students’ Forum (AEGEE) started the initiative for the European Citizens’ Initiative by collecting signatures across Europe for the immediate introduction of the ECI with user-friendly implementation rules. More than 120 NGOs and foundations have contributed to this project so far.
In 2008 we submitted several thousand signatures to the European Parliament, read here. As a concrete result the European Parliament issued a resolution in May 2009, which was based on the proposal by ECI-Campaign, and which later has become a basic document of orientation within the negotiations of the implementing ECI regulation.
Since 2009, the ECI-Campaign has closely followed the development of the ECI implementing rules and is in regular exchange with decision makers within the European Parliament, Council and European Commission. We organize events on the ECI, participate in hearings on the ECI and encourage every citizen to get involved in advocating for citizens-friendly implementing regulations for the ECI.
If you’d like to contribute to and get involved in the campaign for citizen-friendly regulations for the ECI, please contact: Carsten Berg and the ECI Facebook site.