Time to contact MEPs! AFCO and PETI committees move quickly on ECI
Members of European Parliament (MEPs) on the Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) and Petitions (PETI) committees are now considering a draft report calling for a motion of the European Parliament on the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). It asks the Commission to consider several ways to make the ECI both more impactful and easier to use.
AFCO Rapporteur MEP György Schöpflin presented the draft ECI report for discussion in the 16 April 2015 AFCO committee meeting. During a lively 45 minute debate, many MEPs expressed their commitment to reform and strengthen the ECI. MEPs must submit amendments to this report before 20 May. The final report will be voted on in the AFCO committee in June and put to a full plenary vote in September.
What’s in the report that’s helpful?
- Admits that the ECI does not work in its current framework and must be improved with a revision of the Regulation.
- Urges the Commission to respond to successful ECIs by proposing a legal act within 12 months. Also, suggests the inclusion of a plenary debate and vote in Parliament.
- Invites the Commission to consider providing funding to ECIs through the EU budget via programmes such as Europe for Citizens.
- Allows for part of an ECI to be registered when some of its demands fall outside of EU competence.
- Allows ECI organisers to choose the start date of their campaign.
- Extends the ECI support and information infrastructure.
What’s in the report that’s not so helpful?
- Proposes extending personal liability to also include an ECI’s volunteers.
- Only asks the Commission to provide more information about why it refuses to register an ECI.
- Responds to the problem of diverse personal data requirements by proposing the creation of an EU digital citizenship, without suggesting an interim solution that could be implemented immediately.
What does PETI add?
In a draft PETI committee opinion, Rapporteur MEP Beatriz Becerra suggests several important amendments to the AFCO report. Discussions on these suggestions will take place in May.
Helpful suggestions of particular importance to ECI advocates include:
- Allows for the possibility of collecting e-mail addresses within the ECI support form.
- Allows ECIs that require treaty amendment using article 48, TFEU.
- Requires the Commission to provide more transparency in their decision-making process and clarify the procedure for legal admissibility decisions at registration.
What’s still missing from both the AFCO and PETI reports?
- Replace the legal admissibility check at registration with a formal opinion on legal competence that does not prevent registration of the ECI proposal. This will increase citizen participation and enhance public dialogue by increasing the number of ECIs registered, while maintaining the three initial “quality control” checks in the ECI registration phase.
- Lower the age of ECI support to 16 in all EU Member States, not just Austria. The ECI is a non-binding agenda-setting tool and need not follow the same rules as for voting.
- A strong call for Member States to remove ID numbers in all but the two countries where they are essential to verify identity. Some countries that now collect ID numbers never use them.
The Council is now considering its own report on the ECI, which will be considered alongside the Parliament’s report. At the same time, the Commission is preparing a large and in-depth review of the ECI, due by December 2015. It is rare to revise a Regulation after only three years, so the Commission wants to move carefully and not be rushed.
Over the next few weeks, until 20 May, it will be vital for as many ECI advocates as possible to contact MEPs on both the AFCO and PETI committees with both their support for existing proposals and suggestions to include missing proposals. To this end, please review our 12 Ways to Build an ECI That Works, as well as our articles exploring in depth points #1 legal admissibility, #2 treaty amendment and #7 email addresses. New articles will available soon on #9 age of support and #5 ID numbers.