Commission’s letter to ECI organizers

July 26, 2012 News

After several wake up calls by The ECI Campaign and MEPs the EU Commission has thrown a “lifeline” and send the following letter to ECI organizers.

Dear Organisers,

Following the letter we received from several organisers of citizens’ initiatives and the meeting organised as a result on 13 June 2012 with the Commission’s technical experts, Vice-President Šefcovic has asked me to assure you that we are deploying all our energy to help you deal with the issues which have arisen when setting up for the first time an online collection system for the statements of support.

We understand in particular that, in the teething stage of this new instrument of participatory democracy, it has proven challenging for some organisers to find affordable service providers on the market. According to the Regulation on the citizens’ initiative, the Commission’s responsibility at this stage lies principally in confirming the registration of proposed initiatives and offering an open source collection software to be installed by the organisers.

However, the Commission is ready to do its utmost to help tackling the issues inherent in the start-up phase of such a new instrument, and to make sure there are not any insurmountable stumbling blocks to set up the system, so that all registered initiatives can start collecting statements of support electronically. In this respect, I note that two registered initiatives have already set up their online collection system and are currently pending certification by the relevant national authorities in Germany and Italy.

Given the urgency of the matter, the Commission has been intensively working on options to enable those organisers facing most difficulties to carry the work forward.

Among other paths being explored, the Commission is considering offering, as an exceptional, temporary and optional service, to host a limited number of online collection systems. This will also allow the Commission to gain its own experience concerning the end-to-end process and use it to advise both Member States and organisers.

I have asked the relevant Commission services to examine thoroughly the feasibility of this option. After this analysis, the system has been successfully installed in the Data Centre premises in Luxembourg. Provided you are interested in resorting to this exceptional service, the Commission could give you access to this pre-installed software platform. Once the system has been certified in accordance with the Regulation, this would allow you to start collecting online statements of support.

In this event, Commission services will discuss directly with you the timeframe and the modalities of use, and subsequently send you the detailed rules and conditions to be formally accepted for the use of this service. In addition:

a) The hosting by the Commission would imply that the data collected would be stored in the Luxembourg premises of the Commission. In accordance with the Regulation on the citizens’ initiative, it would still be up to you, as organisers, to formally ask the competent Luxembourg authorities to certify your system.

b) The Commission would be ready to provide the necessary information for the certification procedure defined by the Luxembourg Certification Authority, including a risk assessment of the whole related infrastructure that organisers are required to provide according to the legislation. The Commission is already working with the Luxembourg Certification Authority to gather all the necessary information to facilitate the process and guide the organisers.

c) In accordance with the Regulation, you would formally still be responsible for completing the risk assessment with the information on your citizens’ committee and explaining therein how you intend to use the system in order to comply with the security requirements. The Commission could also offer you some guidance in filling out this part, if needed.

I would therefore like to kindly ask you to confirm by the end of July to the functional mailbox whether, in principle, you would be interested in having your online collection system hosted by the Commission, as described above.

Independent on whether you will choose to use the Commission’s infrastructure or not, the one-year deadline for collecting the statements of support for your initiative will be extended, so as to take into account the issues related to a process that is being used for the first time by EU citizens. With this in mind, you will be given 12 months from the moment the hosting environment made available by the Commission is operational.

Finally, Vice-President Šefcovic has asked me to convey to you the message that he himself and his services will talk to Member States to inform about the problems organisers are facing with setting-up an online collection system. He has also asked his services to look into possibilities to further simplify and harmonise the relevant systems and provisions.

Yours faithfully,

Juraj Nociar