Timmermans Personally Commits to the ECI’S Continuation
Press Release by The ECI Campaign, 27 February 2015
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Brussels – Debate on future reform of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) began on Thursday, 26 February 2015 with a public hearing in the European Parliament organised jointly by the Constitutional Affairs and Petitions committees.
Set out in article 11.4 of the Treaty of Lisbon, the ECI allows one million citizens to invite the European Commission to propose a legal act to implement the treaties. Since 1 April 2012, over 46 ECIs have been submitted to the Commission. Yet only 26 ECIs were registered, three succeeded and none led to meaningful action. In 2014, ECI use collapsed. Just three ECIs are currently active.
Speaking at the hearing, Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission, admitted that the ECI has not worked well enough and took personal responsibility to improve it so that it does not disappear. He described the ECI as one of many building blocks to create more trust between citizens and EU institutions. He also expressed a desire for the ECI to become a platform for political dialogue and not only a legal instrument. He insisted that the treaties legally prevent the Commission from registering some ECIs and responding to some successful ECIs with legislative proposals.
According to ECI users, the key to restoring citizen trust in the ECI, and by extension EU institutions, is for the Commission to take successful ECIs seriously. At minimum, the Commission must explain more openly and transparently the reasons for their response. Ideally, it should introduce a legislative proposal to Parliament and Council. Representing the ECI Right to Water, Pablo Sanchez Centellas asserted that “if the ECI can only be consultative…that widens the gap between political institutions and citizens”.
If the ECI is to become a platform for political dialogue, as Commissioner Timmerman’s desires, then the legal admissibility check at registration must be removed. Carsten Berg of The ECI Campaign noted that “The Commission is limiting free speech by refusing to register ECIs for “legal reasons”. Nearly half of proposed ECIs have been refused registration. This is the highest percentage of any citizens’ initiative in Europe.”
Representatives of the End Ecocide, Unconditional Basic Income and 30 km/Making Streets Liveable ECIs all endorsed The ECI Campaign’s 12 recommended reforms, including reducing personal data required from supporters. They said that the ECI, in its current form, is now widely rejected within civil society as “not fit for use”. Without deep reform, the ECI is dead.
The Commission will submit a report on the ECI to the Council and Parliament by 1 April.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.