Democracy experts warn new ECI regulation could undermine online participation

2018-10-24 News

PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Brussels, 24 October 2018

18 experts warn against the Council proposal to ban the use of alternative softwares to collect ECI signatures.[1]

  1. Council wants to ban alternatives to Commission’s software
  2. 18 experts warn of consequences in open letter
  3. Alternative software has proven highly effective and is increasingly popular
  4. Crucial trilogue expected on 13 November

The Council wants to ban the use of so-called ‘individual Online Collection Systems’. In a joint open letter published today, 18 online campaigning and ECI experts call upon the Council to revise its position and to preserve the right of ECI campaigners to use their own software.

Under the current regulation, organisers have the choice to use either the Commission’s online collection system (OCS) or to use an alternative software. In practice, ‘OpenECI’ is the only alternative OCS. It was developed in 2015 by experienced ECI campaigners. Half of the ECI campaigns are using it at the moment. The software has proven very effective, as demonstrated by the success of ECI Stop Glyphosate: by using OpenECI, they managed to collect 1.1 million signatures in 5 months’ time, a speed record for the ECI.[2]

Xavier Dutoit works as IT Director for WeMove.EU, one of the key organisations behind ECI Stop Glyphosate. He was one of the developers of OpenECI, drawing on his own experience as organiser of the first-ever successful ECI Right2Water. Dutoit explains his support for the open letter as follows: “If we can no longer use our own, self-developed OpenECI software, we will probably no longer get involved in ECIs, let alone start one ourselves.”

If the EU institutions decide to follow the Council’s current position, future ECI organisers would have no choice but to use the Commission-run centralised online collection system. They would lose their right and freedom to choose an alternative like ‘OpenECI’. But this is not all. As written by the experts in the open letter, “banning iOCS would not only erase ‘OpenECI’, create uncertainty for future ECI organisers and stop a fruitful process of mutual learning, it would also undermine the possibility for civil society to further invest in the ECI’s digital dimension.”

The regulation on the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is currently under revision by the EU institutions. The crucial political trilogue on this topic is expected on 13 November, and the interinstitutional negotiations are meant to be concluded by December 2018. The new regulation on the ECI is expected to come into effect as of 1 January 2020.

For more information about this press release, please contact Maarten de Groot (maarten@citizens-initiative.eu or +31 640595647).

[1] The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is the world’s first-ever instrument of transnational, participatory and digital democracy. It allows 1 million EU citizens from at least 7 Member States to invite the European Commission to propose a legal act of the Union for the purpose of implementing the Treaties. Since its introduction in April 2012, 75 citizens’ initiatives have been started, 53 have been registered by the Commission, and 5 have reached the 1-million threshold.

[2] In addition to ECI Stop Glyhosate, the following ECIs have used or are using ‘OpenECI’: ECI Fair Transport Europe, ECI People4Soil, ECI We are a welcoming Europe, ECI End the Cage Age, ECI Eat ORIGINal.