Council retains ID number requirement for ECI despite EDPS objections – Now up to the Parliament to save the ECI

2010-06-16 News

Press Release by ECI Campaign, 16 June 2010

On Monday, 14th June, the Council agreed on a draft ECI regulation which next will be negotiated with Parliament. According to Carsten Berg, Coordinator of the ECI Campaign, “this first provisional compromise regulation still remains too bureaucratic and non-transparent to make this new instrument truly workable for citizens”.

On a slightly positive note, the number of signatures required to trigger an admissibility check has been lowered from 300,000 to 100,000, which however is still much too high.  Similarly, the ECI regulations will be reviewed in three years rather than five.

Unfortunately, the requirement of signatories to an ECI to provide personal ID card numbers has been retained as a requirement in all countries except for a small number of countries where this is against national data protection laws and/or cultural traditions. This includes Finland, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Ireland and Denmark.

According to Carsten Berg of the ECI Campaign, the ID number requirement would effectively render the ECI unusable. First, in a time where identity theft is a growing concern, the collection of such sensitive personal data as ID numbers would deter many citizens from signing an ECI. Officials clearly underestimate this issue. Second, in many countries, including Germany, individuals are not required to carry an ID card at all times. In practical terms, this would often make it impossible to collect ECI signatures in public locations. Third, and perhaps most importantly, 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 Member States but not all countries, even where not technically needed to verify identity, also violates paragraph 4 (introduction) of the proposed regulation which 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 for 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 and birth date.

The ECI Campaign strongly urges the European Parliament to now take responsibility for rescuing the ECI by removing the requirement to provide personal ID numbers and by improving other important aspects such as the scope of an ECI (referring to treaty amendments) and the still unclear follow-up of an ECI, as described in our press release March 31st 2010.