ECI Campaign goals in 2010

2010-03-24 News

Welcome to the Campaign for a citizen-friendly European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). Read more about the specifics for which we have campaigned for in 2010. We strongly recommend that those  aspects which could not be reached yet (indicated in italic), will to be amended in 2015, the official date for review.

What needed to be changed in the ECI regulation to make the ECI usable?

Within 2010  European Parliament, Commission and Council had finally come up with their own ECI proposal, which then needed to be negotiated. In order to ensure that the ECI can fulfill its potential to democratize the EU and engage citizens in EU issues, we suggested the following seven modifications to the draft ECI regulation, which was proposed as a compromise by the EU-Commission and Council on June 14th.

1. Clarify the European Commission’s follow-up to successful ECIs

The draft ECI proposal by the EU Commission is silent on the most important phase of the ECI: the Commission’s response to a successful ECI. This needs to be clearly detailed in the regulation. Each successful ECI should result in a public hearing process where the Commission explains its response to the ECI in a transparent way directly and in exchange with the organizers of an ECI. As is the case for a legislative initiative from the European Parliament, the Commission should also be given a time limit in which to issue a legislative proposal.

ECI-Campaign succeeded in this point. Art. 11 of the ECI regulation foresees a public hearing.

2. Simplify the signature form and eliminate ID number requirements

In the draft regulation, each person supporting an ECI would be required to give not only his or her name, address and signature but also date and place of birth and personal identification card number (ID card, passport, social security card). The ID number requirement could effectively render the ECI unusable by raising public fears of violation of privacy and identity theft. Such intrusive personal data requirements clearly deter supporters and thus significantly raise costs for signature collection. After six EU member states have already rejected this in their country, the requirement of providing a personal identity card number should be removed in all member states.

ECI Campaign only partially succeeded in this point. The majority of member states requires ID numbers, but since it is regulated in the Annex this can easily changed by member states, see here.

3. Simplify the admissibility check procedure

The Commission currently suggests a double-admissibility check of an ECI. First, after registration of an ECI, EU-officials shall make a “value-check” and test, if the ECI is “abusive” or ‘manifestly against the values of the Union’ (Art 4.4). Secondly, after 100.000 signatures are collected, the Commission shall decide, if the ECI is legally admissible (Art. 8). While point one is questionable as such, it certainly needs to be specified, in order to avoid misuse by the Commission. Secondly, the requirement of first obtaining the large number of 100,000 signatures is excessively costly for organisers of ECIs, which will later be deemed inadmissible. In order to avoid huge frustration, we therefore urge the institutions to do the legal admissibility check in the beginning after successful registration (as proposed by MEP Wallis and MEP Häfner). In other words, the two admissibility checks shall be merged; otherwise this instrument remains too bureaucratic and non-transparent.

ECI Campaign succeeded in this point. The different admissibility checks have been merged.

4. ECIs that propose treaty amendments are admissible

It needs to be explicitly clarified, that ECI may not be restricted to secondary law (policy proposals). Otherwise citizens would be denied to participate in the most important political issues. Given that the Commission may propose treaty amendments, it should be possible to launch ECIs requiring treaty amendments to implement.

ECI Campaign did not succeed. This important was ignored by EU institutions.

5. Extend the time limit to 18-24 months

The proposed maximum time period of 12 months to collect one million signatures from nine countries is considerably insufficient. Often 18-24 months will be needed, especially for ECIs coordinated by smaller organisations without a huge budget or for issues that are not yet well known or understood by the general public.

This aspect was ignored by EU institutions.

6. Reduce the minimum number of Member States to 5

The proposed requirement of a minimum number of signatures from nine Members States (1/3) is far too high. A European Party only needs members from seven Members States. Given that ECI is simply an agenda-setting initiative that will later follow standard EU legislative procedures, signatures from at least 5 member (1/6))  states would be sufficient.

The threshold was lowered to 1/4 of member states.

7. Provide practical support to ECI organiser

Given the huge practical challenges inherent in collecting one million signatures at transnational level, ECIs should have the right to formal support as is the case for citizens’ initiatives in Member states. Support prior to signature collection should include comprehensive information on how to conduct an ECI and legal advice. Once the ECI has been declared admissible, official translation of the text into all 21 EU official languages should be provided. To promote transnational citizen involvement, travel vouchers and free meeting-space for citizens from different countries to meet to discuss the ECI topic should also be provided.

This important aspect was largely ignored by EU institutions. ECI Campaign therefore has set up an own ECI Help Desk.