Fraternité 2020, the first registered European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), began collecting statements of support on the European Commission's own servers on Friday (26 October), after server problems delayed the petition for months.
The Commission made the offer to host ECIs on its own servers in July, as the organisers behind the initiatives cited issues in finding suitable hosting solutions and setting up their online collection systems (OCS).
Since then, the Commission has worked closely with organisers and the Ministère de la Fonction publique et de la Réforme administrative - Centre des technologies de l'information de l'État (CTIE), the designated certification authority in Luxembourg, where the Commission's servers are located.
The "Fraternité 2020" initiative has signed a hosting agreement with the Commission and the CTIE has certified its OCS system, the last step before the website for online collection of statements of support for this initiative could go online on the Commission's servers, and now the website is open.
Fraternité 2020 organisers want to enhance EU exchange programmes such as the Erasmus student exchange scheme or the European Voluntary Service (EVS) in order to contribute to a united Europe.
To collect the signatures, Fraternité 2020 organisers made the decision to do it online only. The aim is to collect one million signatures in one year.
“We are thrilled that we have now started collecting statements of support for our initiative," Luca Copetti, a representative of the Citizens' Committee for Fraternité 2020, said in a statement.
"As the first initiative registered by the Commission, we have experienced some challenges which could not have been anticipated. We are grateful that the Commission has helped us to overcome them, and that we can now concentrate on bringing about a truly European debate around our proposals, which hopefully will result in reaching the required level of support,” Copetti said.
Commission Vice President Maroš Šefčovič said the result proves that the Commission is "absolutely determined" to make this new instrument of participatory democracy a success.
"I said the organisers of the first initiatives would face no insurmountable stumbling blocks to get their initiatives off the ground, and I meant it. I would like to thank the Luxembourg authorities, in particular Minister Octavie Modert. Their excellent cooperation enabled the Commission to deliver on this commitment," he added.
The Commission has already registered 10 other initiatives, four of which have already signed a hosting agreement with the Commission for their OCS systems and are expected to be able to start collecting statements of support soon.
The ECI co-rapporteurs in the European Parliament welcomed the news. MEP Alain Lamassoure from the Group of the European People's Party (EPP) said: "I am delighted to see that, thanks to the Commission's efforts, all the technical conditions are now fulfilled to enable citizens to take part in the elaboration of EU law."
Zita Gurmai, MEP from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats added: “I’m glad to see that the first ever registered ECI is now ready to start collecting signatures online. I believe that the discussion represented in this ECI will enhance considerably the European debate. This cooperation among the stakeholders has proven that if there is a will, there is always a way to overcome technical difficulties and I trust that this spirit will continue to guide the everyday steps needed to make this tool of participatory democracy a valuable asset for European citizens.”
Luxembourg's Minister of Culture Octavie Modert said: “I am honoured to certify the first OCS system of a European Citizens' Initiative in Luxembourg and thus contribute to giving European citizens a powerful tool of participatory democracy at EU level."