Commissioner-Designate Frans Timmermans Vague on ECI in Confirmation Hearing

October 7, 2014 News

Today, Members of European Parliament interviewed Mr. Frans Timmermans for confirmation as First Vice-President of the Commission for Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, Rule of Law, Charter of Fundamental Rights. He will also be responsible for the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI).

Previously, in written questions from the European Parliament, Mr. Timmermans’ avoided giving any concrete answers regarding the use or reform of the ECI.

In his opening speech he declared his dedication to better inter-institutional cooperation, the importance of subsidiarity, fundamental rights and other topics. Regrettably, he did not mention the ECI.

During the question and answer session, Mr. Timmermans was asked three questions about the ECI. He stated that the European Commission needs to take a more political stance on ECIs in order to boost European debate among all EU citizens. In addition, he defended the Commission’s response to the ECI “One of Us”, but regretted the lack of political debate on the issue. His answers were vague and he defended the narrow interpretation of the ECI by the European Commission.

We are disappointed that Mr. Timmermans avoided any critical observations of the unreasonable barriers imposed by the current ECI Regulation or the ECI’s disappointingly limited impact. Even Commission President Juncker has publicly expressed the opinion that the ECI must be simplified.

In 2012, the ECI was launched as a powerful new democratic instrument that will change how the EU is run.  In practice however, the ECI s burdensome procedures have dissuaded many potential users. With few new ECIs being registered and over 20 ECI campaigns complaining of massive flaws in ECI rules, this new democratic instrument is under threat. We urge Mr. Timmermans to propose these 12 reforms to the ECI.

Carsten Berg
Coordinator of The ECI Campaign