European Citizens’ Initiative Under Threat as EP Votes on new ECI Rules PRESS RELEASE

October 23, 2015 News

Press Release by The ECI Campaign, 23 October 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

European Citizens’ Initiative Under Threat as EP Votes on new ECI Rules

On 28 October 2015 members of European Parliament (MEPs) will vote in plenary on the AFCO report in order to improve the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). It contains many helpful changes which, if implemented, will make the ECI much easier to use and more impactful. Civil society actors have repeatedly asserted that the ECI is in grave danger of falling into disuse and proposed reforms to ensure its survival. They therefore welcome the AFCO report and call on the Members of the European Parliament to keep it unchanged and to fully support it.

Most of all, the AFCO report ensures that successful ECIs result in a meaningful legal response by the European Commission and a plenary vote in the European Parliament. However, this point is now under threat. Civil society organizations are shocked that the newly proposed amendments by influential MEPs Kaufmann (S&D) and Schöpflin (EPP) include unexpected drawbacks from the original version, which in consequence would fundamentally harm the report.

Their new proposals would stop to ensure that successful ECIs result in a meaningful legal response, as it is currently proposed in the AFCO report. “Instead the new amendments plan to keep the follow-up process very restrictive.” – says Carsten Berg, General Coordinator of The ECI Campaign. The amendments propose to withdraw the idea to debate and vote on successful ECIs in European Parliament’s plenary sessions. What is even worse, they withdraw the Commissions’ obligation to ensure that a successful ECI will lead to a legislative proposal. According to the new amendment, the Commission must present a legal act on successful ECIs within one year, but only if it first “issues a positive opinion”.

“This last addition makes the proposal empty and meaningless. It should be remembered that none of the first three successful ECIs have lead to any legal proposals or to any legal changes introduced by the European Commission. However ECI organizers need a real incentive to start an ECI – a perspective to have a chance of success. Otherwise the new instrument will not be used anymore.” – underlines Berg.

Another important point that has been fully neglected in the report is to allow ECIs to propose changes to the Treaties. 40% of all ECIs have been declared as inadmissible by the European Commission. The registration process thus needs to be simplified and become more inclusive. AFCO members were deeply divided on this point. Unable to come to agreement, they opted to leave this decision to the EU Court of Justice (CJEU). “We urge the European Parliament to make use of its role as a European legislator – in favor of the European Citizens’ Initiative right.” – says Berg.

Find our detailed assessment of the AFCO report here.

The ECI Campaign (www.citizens-initiative.eu) is an independent non-profit that works for the successful introduction and implementation of the European citizens’ initiative right. For more information contact Carsten Berg at +49-1764-3064365 or berg@citizens-initiative.eu.