Who is making the Online Signature Collection work?

2012-06-06 News

After a first admissibility check and registration by the EU Commission, the first six ECIs in EU history are now officially in the phase of the campaigning and collection mode.  In fact, however, no one is actually collecting signatures. It is one of the biggest paradoxes that there is at the moment no possibility to support an ECI online. Read the story behind.

Within the past weeks several ECI organizers have approached The ECI Campaign for help with the digital ECI procedures. In particular they have raised strong complaints about the overly demanding Online Collection System (OCS) requirements. The costs involved in fulfilling the complicated requirements in the specifying ECI regulation on OCS and the extra costs for hiring a server appear much too high – they seem to amount to several thousand Euros.

At the same time we have received feedbacks from organizations like “More Onion” whose online collection system has been approved. They explain in more detail “Why the tool provided by the EU is terrible” and does not live up to the basic expectations and needs of citizens and ECI organizers. Already in February we pointed to other IT-experts from different ECIs who have published a similar critical statement.

From a practical point of view of the ECI organizers, the online collection problem is the most urgent one and explains one of the biggest paradoxes which we can currently observe. After registration, ECIs are officially in the phase of campaigning and collection mode, but in fact no one is actually collecting signatures. As most ECI organizers seem to be focusing only on the digital approach there are as yet no paper signature forms nor is there any possibility to support an ECI online.

We have regularly informed the EU Commission about these severe problems, which are creating huge problems for ECI organizers. The Commission has fully acknowledged the problem and their responsibility. As it remains unclear, however, how quickly the institutions will react to this problem, civil society needs to organize and help itself. Within the Campaign for an ECI that is designed and implemented in a citizen-friendly way, we are therefore exploring in cooperation with foundations and other partners how to make available both software (the open source software provided seems to be inadequate and partially not working) and a server for all ECI organizers (possibly for free or at a very low cost to ECI organizers). As expressed earlier to the EU Commission, we are also suggesting exploring in how far a Commission-hosted server can be provided which ECI organizers might use for signature collection (it could also be an EP or EESC-hosted server). In fact, some people are even suggesting to launch an ECI for a central public online collection platform for the European Citizens’ Initiative. The ECI challenge will be a key issue at the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki. Everyone is invited to contribute to the solution of this urgent problem.