EU rejects first citizen's petition, on nuclear power

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For the first time, the European Commission has rejected a proposed European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), one that sought to phase out the use of all nuclear energy within the EU.

In its reasoning, the Commission referred to the Euratom Treaty for the promotion of nuclear energy, saying that the accord bans the use of a citizens’ initiative directed against nuclear power.

The German Federation for the Protection of Environment and Nature (BUND) had, together with environmental organisations in 11 EU countries, collected signatures to request a nuclear phase-out across Europe. Now the federation says it will seek a legal examination of the rejection.

“That is simply wrong”, said Thomas Alge, an environmental legal expert for Austrian environmental organisations.

“The demands of the anti-nuclear power citizens’ initiative relate to those aspects which fall within the EU's Lisbon Treaty. This means that the demands are quite clearly within the sphere of competence of the Commission and quite legally be made the subject of a European Citizens’ Initiative on behalf of concerned EU citizens,” he added.

Alge also said that the ECI had asked the Commission to develop scenarios and criteria for closing Europe’s nuclear power facilities and this action is to safeguard one of the fundamentals of environmental protection - the precautionary principle - and basic human rights, which is also part of the Lisbon Treaty.

The ECI Campaign group said in a statement that it would like to see greater transparency in relation to the registration of new ECIs as there can be several reasons why an ECI is not registered. An initiative can be rejected if it contravenes the values of the EU, does not lie within the competence of the Commission or is "manifestly abusive, frivolous of vexatious," according to the EU's criteria.

“In our view, these rules are too vague and allow the Commission to block an ECI without having been properly scrutinised in depth at an early stage,” the ECI Campaign group said.

The EU Commission has stated it will not register ECIs that propose amendments to the EU treaties as these could contravene legislative proposals already in the pipeline. This would exclude many ECIs from the start as the Commission itself is entitled to propose amendments to treaties.

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