What is the ECI?

By providing a legal basis for a European Citizens’ Initiative right (Art. 11.4 of the Treaty of Lisbon), Europe has become the home of the world’s first tool of transnational, participatory and digital democracy. The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) enables one million EU citizens (coming from at least 7 of the 28 member states) to call directly on the European Commission to propose legislation of interest to them in an area of EU competence.

The legal basis of the citizens’ initiative is set out in:

Article 11, paragraph 4, Treaty on European Union

Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the European Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties.

The procedures and conditions required for such a citizens’ initiative shall be determined in accordance with the first paragraph of Article 24 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Article 24, paragraph 1, Treaty on the Funtioning of the European Union

The European Parliament and the Council, acting by means of regulations in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, shall adopt the provisions for the procedures and conditions required for a citizens’ initiative within the meaning of Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union, including the minimum number of Member States from which such citizens must come.

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The specific practical arrangements and procedures for launching an ECI are set out in the ECI Regulation 211/2011 which is applicable since 1st of April 2012.

An additional legal act related to the European citizens’ initiative is the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1179/2011 laying down technical specifications for online collection systems.

TIP: You can find more information on the ECI in our research section and on the official website of the European Citizens’ Initiative provided by the European Commission.

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Historical background

The ECI has its origins in the Constitutional Convention on the Future of Europe in 2002-2003. Thanks to the tireless campaign work of pro-democracy activists and like-minded Convention members the ECI was introduced in a last-minute act into the Constitutional Treaty. In 2005, the Constitutional Treaty was rejected by the citizens of France and the Netherlands in two national referendums. In response, the heads of state decided to adopt 95% of the content of this rejected treaty and name it the Treaty of Lisbon – which was not put to the citizens for public approval except only in Ireland.

On 13 December 2007 the Treaty of Lisbon was signed by all the EU Member States. As it introduced the provisions on the European Citizens’ Initiative taken over from the Constitutional Treaty, in 2008 the ECI Campaign came up with its own detailed ECI proposal, which included, among other things, background information on the legal nature of the ECI and an overview of existing citizens’ initiative rights in EU Member States. After intensive campaigning with the support of 10,000 citizens (LINK when we handed over the signatures in early 2008), we urged the European Parliament to come up with a resolution on ECI implementation in 2009. On 11 November 2009 the European Commission published a Green Paper on the European Citizens’ Initiative, launching a public consultation process on the ECI. In response, The ECI Campaign produced amendments to the Commission’s ECI proposal, which ultimately were only partially taken up.

The Council and the Commission came up with a preliminary compromise on 14 June 2010. After having produced several drafts and opinions that were discussed in the Constitutional Affairs and Petitions Committees, on 15 December 2010 the European Parliament finally voted on the ECI Regulation. After one year of negotiations, on 16 February 2011 all three main EU institutions: the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament agreed on a final ECI Regulation (find all language versions: here | for an overview and monitoring of the decision-making process click here). The Regulation is the result of intensive debates which The ECI Campaign has monitored and influenced, thanks to the help of 200,000 citizens who supported our proposals in an online petition.

In April 2012 the ECI regulation finally entered into force and has become applicable. Since then nearly 6 million citizens have supported an ECI. 24 ECIs have been registered, 19 ECIs were declared as inadmissible and 3 successful ECIs have reached out to more than 1 Million supporters.