ECI’s “existential crisis” at ECI Day 2016: Commission’s non-action frustrates stakeholders

May 20, 2016 News

ECI Day 2016: Forging Change, held on 20 April at the European Economic and Social Committee in Brussels, was dominated by widespread stakeholder disbelief, frustration and occasionally overt anger at the Commission’s refusal to respond positively to the European Parliament’s October 2015 resolution calling for immediate ECI reform. Many echoed The ECI Campaign coordinator Carsten Berg’s observation that “by refusing to reform the ECI the European Commission is telling citizens it does not trust them, how then can they trust the Commission?”

Unfortunately, no Commission representative capable of discussing this decision was even present at the event. Commissioner Frans Timmermans cancelled his own participation and sent an administrative staffer who could not address political decisions. Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly summed up the situation by saying that an open debate on the political implications of the ECI was essential and that no progress was possible until the Commission explained its decision. “The ECI is in an existential crisis” she concluded.  

MEP Gyorgy Schopflin, rapporteur on the ECI in the European Parliament, speculated on the Commission’s position by noting that EU elites have become increasingly fearful and distrustful of citizens. He also remarked that the Commission has been shifting, as convenient for them and with little consistency, between legal and political arguments to justify their decisions on the ECI. On a hopeful note, he promised to launch a legislative initiative report in the European Parliament. If approved, this report would require the Commission to publicly justify its position on ECI reform.

In parallel workshops and civil society panel discussions, participants explored both challenges and potentials in using the ECI.  ECI Campaign team members Carsten Berg, Janice Thomson, James Organ and Heike Aghte all served as workshop leaders and speakers.

To see pictures from ECI Day 2016 and hear directly from many of its participants, watch this 6 minute audio-video summary report.