NGOs and MEPs unite to give citizens greater say

Inspired by a provision in the stalled Constitutional Treaty, civil-society groups have called on the EU to give legal force to citizen’s initiatives.

The European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI) was launched on 9 November 2006 by a group of NGOs with the support of some MEPs. The ECI wants to give legal force to citizen initiatives that gather one million signatures.

The general co-ordinator of the campaign, Carsten Berg, emphasised that European politics could not continue to work “top-down” only, but needed a “bottom-up”-approach. He urged the European institutions “to take democracy seriously”.

The shipwrecked Constitutional Treaty had already foreseen such an initiative in article 47 of the text. But Socialist MEP Edith Mastenbroek admitted the initiative was “cherry picking” the Constitution, but insisted that “this does not mean we should not do it”.

Green MEP Gérard Onesta said that this was a good solution to overcome citizens’ mistrust of European politics, as witnessed during the failed referenda on the European Constitution in France and the Netherlands.

Mastenbroek refuted the idea that the citizens’ initiative could be misused by particular interests. She insisted that this was the most transparent procedure.

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