Eight Steps to Improve the ECI Regulation
The ECI has been in use now for one entire year but its potential has not yet been unfolded. That is why we address our message to the Commission, Council and Parliament: Tear the walls down for participatory democracy and eliminate all the restrictions still inherent in the ECI instrument now. Here are the eight most important proposals for change which we have presented today directly to the Vice-President of the European Commission Maros Sefcovic:
1. Lengthen the signature collection time to 18-24 months
A longer collection period would allow small organisations to sponsor ECIs, as well as encourage ECIs on important topics that are not yet widely known. Even large organizations sponsoring ECIs on popular topics have difficulty meeting the 12 month deadline.
2. Remove ID requirements to support an ECI
More citizens throughout the EU would likely use the ECI if personal data requirements were limited to name, address, and perhaps birth date. Although the European Data Protection Supervisor determined that ID card numbers are not necessary for the ECI, 18 member states still require them. This has raised serious privacy concerns and deterred many citizens from supporting an ECI.
3. Ensure that all EU citizens can support an ECI — regardless of where they live
The ECI is a legal right of EU citizenship. Yet 11 million of the EU citizens who live outside their home country are denied this right – e.g., Irish and Dutch outside the EU, EU nationals in Austria, EU nationals in Luxembourg not registered with the national social security system. National regulations must be changed or a new method created so these EU citizens may support an ECI.
4. Improve the online signature collection system
Since over 90% of signatures are collected online, the ECI online signature collection system must meet the needs of both campaigners and national administrations. The ideal system would include a single centralized online collection platform hosted on Commission servers (where signatures are stored) and allow all front-end material to reside on individual campaign websites. This would eliminate the expensive risk assessment and duplicate paperwork currently required by each ECI. It would also simplify and reduce costs for certification by national administrations.
5. Allow ECI campaigns to collect and retain supporters’ contact information
To develop a European public space for dialogue and debate, campaigners must be able to contact past supporters of ECIs. The regulation must therefore be changed to allow ECI supporters to share contact information with and be contacted by campaigns.
6. Remove the CAPTCHA from the online signature collection website
Removing the CAPTCHA from the online signature collection site would allow thousands of additional EU citizens to support an ECI. It has proven an unnecessary barrier to ECI supporters.
7. Allow ECIs calling for treaty amendments
ECIs on many of the topics of greatest interest to EU citizens require treaty amendments. Registering these ECIs is vital to engaging more citizens in the EU. Since the Commission itself may propose amendments to treaties, ECIs should also be allowed to propose treaty amendments.
8. Provide an ECI “help desk infrastructure”
An ECI support infrastructure offering practical and legal advice, logistical assistance, and translation services would allow small citizen groups to use the ECI. Consider also assigning additional EU staff to support the ECI and providing partial cost reimbursement for ECIs with at least 50,000 signatures.