EU institutions gamble with the future of the European Citizens’ Initiative

2018-12-14 News

14 December 2018 – PRESS RELEASE by The ECI Campaign – for immediate release

Recent EU deal on ECI revision creates significant uncertainty and may not benefit the ECI in the long run.

On the evening of 12 December 2018, representatives of the European Parliament and the Council of the EU have arrived at an interinstitutional agreement on a new regulation on the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), the world’s first-ever instrument of transnational, participatory and digital democracy. The deal followed a 15-month long process of negotiations within and between the European Parliament and the Council on the basis of the Commission’s revision proposal published on 13 September 2017.

The deal that lies on the table would make it easier and less burdensome for citizens to start a citizens’ initiative and to properly prepare and plan one’s campaign. However, it would also rob ECI organisers of their established and frequently used right to manage their own individual online collection system, leaving them no choice but to use the Commission-run central online collection system as of 2023. This handicaps a still very young and fragile participatory instrument, effectively creating a straitjacket for online campaign management and digital participation. It makes the ECI considerably less appealing as an instrument for citizens and civil society organisations that actually have the resources and expertise needed to have a real chance of reaching the threshold of 1 million statements of support in at least 7 Member States. On top of that, the agreement does not provide any guarantee that the follow-up on successful ECIs will be significantly better in the future than it has been in the past.

“This deal will be meaningful mostly for ECI organisers with little resources, but it is highly doubtful that it will benefit the ECI instrument as a whole in the long run. The EU cannot afford to gamble with the future of the ECI.” Maarten de Groot, Campaign Coordinator of The ECI Campaign.

“By conceding to the Member States’ demand for a ban on individual online collection systems, the EU institutions are ignoring the alarm signals sent by ECI and online campaigning experts. This is symptomatic of a highly instrumentalist view on citizen participation, whereby the terms for participation are dictated in a top-down manner, with seemingly little concern for the civil society capital and institutional trust that are destroyed along the way.” Carsten Berg, Director of The ECI Campaign.

The ECI Campaign is highly disappointed by the outcome of the interinstitutional negotiations. All things considered, The ECI Campaign is not confident that the deal that lies on the table will be an improvement over the current regulation and that it will benefit the ECI instrument as a whole. Find a detailed assessment of the deal here.

The deal on the new regulation can only come into force once it is approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. The European Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee is expected to discuss the deal during its meeting in January, after which it will be voted upon in plenary. The new regulation is planned to come into force on 1 January 2020.

The ECI Campaign (www.citizens-initiative.eu) is an independent nonprofit organisation that works for the successful introduction, reform and implementation of the European Citizens’ Initiative right. For more information, please contact Carsten Berg (berg@citizens-initiative.eu) or Maarten de Groot (maarten@citizens-initiative.eu).