“The European Citizens’ Initiative and the Promise of Participatory Democracy” –  Joint Conclusions of Organisers*

June 23, 2015 News

On 16 June 2015, the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU, the Council General Secretariat and The ECI Campaign brought together stakeholders from EU institutions, Member States and civil society to reflect on the future of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI).

Stakeholders expressed deep concern that ECI use has declined dramatically since 2013 and that no ECI has led to a legislative proposal. All agreed that the ECI is unnecessarily complex. Clearly, significant changes to ECI procedures are urgently needed if citizen confidence in the ECI is to be restored and it is to fulfil its promise of participatory democracy.

Any ECI reform must support the ECI’s true purpose. For politicians and civil society representatives, this is to provoke a political response that can result in concrete policy change. For all stakeholders, equally important is the facilitation of a pan-European dialogue between citizens and decision-makers.

Any ECI reform should lead to greater awareness, simplification, accessibility and proportionality.

  • Awareness of the ECI instrument itself and the EU policies it can influence should be expanded.
  • All rules should be proportional to the ECI’s limited agenda-setting impact.
  • Rules and procedures should become simpler – e.g., IT standards.
  • The ECI should be made more accessible to all EU citizens — regardless of place of residence, disability and resources.Several specific ECI improvements were suggested. Some can be implemented now. Others require changing the Regulation.

Here is a summary:

To increase the number of new ECIs registered:

  • Provide more rigorous legal reasoning when ECIs are rejected.
  • Transfer admissibility decisions from the Commission to a neutral entity.
  • Remove the legal admissibility check at registration or delay it until after an ECI has demonstrated popular support.
  • Clarify the legal framework guiding ECI decisions, including a consistent position toward Treaty amendment.

To engage more citizens and increase the number of successful ECIs:

  • Provide better legal, technical and translation assistance to ECI organisers.
  • Permit the collection and sharing of signatories’ email addresses with ECI campaigns to facilitate ongoing dialogue and engagement.
  • Reduce and harmonise personal data requirements. Adopt a single signature collection form.
  • Give campaigns a full 12 months to collect signatures – e.g., by choosing their own start date.
  • Offer citizens’ committees a legal status to shield members from liability.

To support digital public engagement via the ECI:

  • Simplify technical IT requirements to allow digital tools to evolve in tandem with technical changes and be developed by citizen technologists.
  • Allow the future use of eID digital signatures.

To ensure that ECIs lead to a political response and policy change:

  • Hold a proper political debate on all ECIs with significant popular support — not only successful initiatives.
  • Require a stronger and clearer political response to successful ECIs.

Full conference report can be downloaded from here.

*Joint conclusions agreed to by The ECI Campaign and the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU. The Council General Secretariat provided event support, but takes no position on content.