WHY WE NEED THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT TO VOTE ON SUCCESSFUL CITIZENS’ INITIATIVES #EPForgetUsNot
On 5 July 2018, just prior to the plenary vote to start interinstitutional negotiations on the ECI revision, European Parliament Rapporteur György Schöpflin (EPP) announced that he, with the full support of S&D, would start an amendment to the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure to guarantee plenary debates for successful citizens’ initiatives. While we fully support this commitment that would signify an important improvement for the ECI, we call upon the Parliament to not only commit to a plenary debate, but also to a vote – a so-called ‘motion for resolution’ – at the end of the debate, as called for by our #EPForgetUsNot campaign. Experience in member states with successfully implemented citizens’ initiative rights shows that only where Parliament votes on successful initiatives, the instrument is broadly used by citizens (e.g. Finland and Latvia). In the light of the upcoming deadline for amendments and discussion in the Constitutional Affairs Committee, we would like to offer two key reasons for making plenary votes a binding aspect in the follow-up to successful ECIs.
Citizens deserve to know what their elected MEPs think.
The ECI is an instrument for a significant minority of EU citizens to make their voices heard and to participate in the agenda-setting process at European level. While the burden of collecting 1 million statements of support from at least 7 Member State is very high – requiring a high level of organisation, significant financial resources and a unlimited amount of dedication – the type of follow-up that a successful ECI deserves depends a great deal on whether the views of this significant minority are aligned with the majority of EU citizens. Given that the European Parliament is the only directly elected body, the only way to test for this alignment is by having a vote in the European Parliament, forcing every MEP to take a stance on the respective ECI proposal. Even if the majority in the European Parliament disapproves of an ECI, citizens deserve to know.
All successful ECI organisers demand a plenary vote.
From the 50 registered ECIs, only five have reached the necessary 1 million signatures: Right 2 Water, One of Us, Stop Vivisection, Ban Glyphosate and Minority Safepack*. Among the organisers of these initiatives, there is a lot of scepticism about the follow-up given to their initiatives by the EU institutions. While knowing that the European Parliament is unlikely to fully support the demands of successful initiatives – and may even oppose them – and while knowing that it is ultimately the European Commission that decides whether or not to take legal action in response to a successful initiative, all these five successful ECIs have expressed their support for plenary votes to be a binding aspect in the follow-up to successful ECIs. In addition to these 5 ECIs, 84 other civil society organisations have supported this demand, as the one and only demand of the #EPForgetUsNot campaign**.
* = Minority Safepack is counted here among the successful ECIs, as the organisers indicate they have 1.1 million validated signatures. However, the initiative still needs to be submitted to the Commission.
** = the #EPForgetUsNot campaign coalition expressed its views by means of two open letters to the European Parliament, supported by a total of 89 civil society organisations. Find the first letter here and the second letter here.