ECJ Court contradicts Commission’s judgement on ECI’s admissibility Nothing justifies excluding proposals from democratic debate

2017-05-11 News

By ruling in favour of the European Citizen’s initiative “Stop-TTIP”, the General Court of the EU has provided another judicial ruling in support of the view that the ECI regulation on legal admissibility should be interpreted less strictly by the EU Commission.

On 10 May 2017,  the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “Stop TTIP” claim against the EU Commission. The case goes back to October 2014, when the European Commission rejected the registration of an ECI aiming to stop the EU’s negotiations with the US and Canada to form a transatlantic trade partnership deal.

Faced with such a disappointing decision, the organisers immediately filed a complaint to the ECJ and decided to start collecting signatures nonetheless, launching an unofficial and ‘self-organised‘ ECI. Complying with similar rules in ECI legislation, Stop-TTIP collected more than 3,284,289 signatures from across the European Union.

According to Stop-TTIP’s organiser Dr. Michael Efler, “The Commission’s refusal to register our ECI was arbitrary and political. They were not willing to hear the voices of citizens opposing their neo-liberal projects called TTIP and CETA. We welcome today’s ruling as it honors these very voices.”

At the time, The ECI Campaign explained why it is completely inappropriate for the Commission to block the TTIP ECI and public debate on such an important issue. The Commission’s false legal arguments and paternalistic attitude have greatly restricted European Citizens’ Initiatives in general. The citizens deserve a clear redress when it comes to the official revision of the ECI rules recently announced by Vice-Commissioner Frans Timmermans.

In its ruling, the ECJ backed our claims and clearly dismissed all the arguments for which the EU Commission deemed Stop-TTIP inadmissible. “Nothing justifies excluding from democratic debate legal acts seeking the withdrawal of a decision authorising the opening of negotiations with a view to concluding an international agreement, as well as acts whose object is to prevent the signing and conclusion of such an agreement.” the ECJ ruling reads.

Further on, the General Court “rejects the Commission’s argument according to which the acts envisaged by the proposal at issue would lead to an inadmissible interference in an ongoing legislative procedure.”

The court argued that the EU Commission can perfectly well formulate proposals to the EU Council, even though the negotiations are already underway.

The ECJ is creating progressive jurisprudence

Already on 3rd of February 2017, the ECJ annulled the Commission’s decision to refuse registration of the Minority Safepak ECI. Citizens and pro-democracy organizations welcome today’s decision, which clarifies the general scope of the ECI and provides a clear guideline for the revision of the ECI rules.

There is now a growing body of jurisprudence which asserts that the legal admissibility rules should be interpreted much less strictly by the EU Commission.

However, there is a case to be made that the timing of ECJ rulings on ECIs admissibility should be fast-tracked in the future, to be aligned with the pace of EU policymaking. “We waited for this decision for over two years. In the meantime CETA has been ratified by the European Council and the European Parliament.” complained Efler. “If the commission refuses to register an ECI, the European Court of Justice should review this decision within a fixed and short deadline.”

The EU judges are breathing new life into the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). If Europe is to have a peaceful future it must become more democratic and offer its citizens more credible and binding opportunities for direct participation in EU decision making.

Photos Credit: Creative Commons Stop-TTIPCédric Puisney