Compromise ECI regulation requires mandatory public hearings…but allows collection of ID numbers

December 1, 2010 News

Dear Friends,

Once again, thank you for your fantastic support for a citizen-friendly ECI. More than 175.000 people from across Europe have signed our Avaaz petition calling for 1) no ID numbers from ECI supporters 2) a mandatory public hearing for successful ECIs 3) 18 months to collect signatures and 4) signature quotas from 1/5 of Member States. This has helped us tremendously to keep up the pressure on the ECI negotiators within the EU institutions.

Yesterday morning, 30 November, the European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) unanimously adopted its position on the ECI which included all of our points — except for the signature collection deadline which remains an inadequate 12 months.

Yesterday evening, the first and final official trialogue meeting between negotiators from the European Parliament, Commission and Council took place. This group reached a compromise agreement on the regulation to implement the European Citizens Initiative.

With regards to the compromise agreement, the ECI Campaign welcomes the following three points:

– A mandatory public hearing for every successful citizens’ initiative with the European Commission.

– An admissibility check of a citizens’ initiative at the time of registration and the elimination of the Commission’s proposal to check admissibility only after 300,000 signatures had been collected.

– A citizens’ committee which shall organize each ECI and communicate with the European institutions.

The ECI Campaign is disappointed by the following two points:

– Signatures must reach a minimum quota in 1/4 of Member States. While 1/4 is better than the 1/3 suggested by Council, the ECI Campaign regrets that the 1/5 agreed by Parliament could not have been maintained.

– Citizens’ initiatives will only be given 12 months to collect 1 million signatures. Based on past experience, we determined that all but the largest, best organised groups will need at least 18 months.

The ECI Campaign is deeply disappointed by the decision to allow the collection of ID card numbers in Member States whose governments feel this is necessary. We wholeheartedly endorsed the European Parliament’s position that the identity data required for verification should generally not include any ID card or passport number. However, we strongly rejected their acceptance of exceptions to this rule. We are very disappointed that 3/4 of Member States will require ECI supporters to provide intrusive personal data such as ID card numbers. So far, only nine countries have stated they will not collect ID card numbers: Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Slovakia and the United Kingdom.

The retention of the ID number requirement contradicts the recommendations of the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) which stated: “The EDPS takes the view that the mandatory information fields in the model form are all necessary for the purpose of organising the citizens initiative and securing the authenticity of the statements of support, except for the personal identification number. The EDPS therefore recommends deleting this information field from the model form in Annex III.”

The retention of the ID number requirement in some, but not all, Member States, even where not technically needed to verify identity, also violates paragraph 4 (introduction) of the proposed regulation. This states that “citizens of the Union are subject to similar conditions for supporting a citizens’ initiative regardless of the Member State from which they come”.

In order to truly guarantee similar and usable requirement for ECIs, the personal ID number requirement urgently needs to be deleted from the ECI support form used in every Member State. As this is a feasible option for some Member States, it should be for all. Citizens signing the ECI should therefore only be required to provide name, address, signature, birth date and birth place.

We also regret that a period of 12 months will be foreseen for the implementation of the citiziens’ initiative regulation, instead of six months as the EP had suggested.

Next steps:

– Agreement at COREPER (ambassadors): 8/12/2010
– Vote in the AFCO Committee of the European Parliament: 13/12/2010
– Vote during the plenary session of the European Parliament: 16/12/2010