The European Citizens’ Initiative needs promised ‘start button’

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youth_prize.jpg [European Parliament/Flickr]

After over three years of use, none of nearly 50 proposed ECIs have resulted in a legislative proposal. The European Commission simply declined to act, leaving ECI supporters feeling betrayed, writes Carsten Berg.

Carsten Berg is coordinator of The ECI Campaign, an independent non-profit that works for the successful introduction and implementation of the European citizens’ initiative right.

On Wednesday, 28 October, the European Parliament will vote on a report that promises to make the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) both easier to use and more impactful. However, several powerful MEPs are challenging a key point that would require the Commission to respond to all successful ECIs with a legislative proposal.

Created by the Treaty of Lisbon, and in effect since April 2012, the ECI allows one million citizens to invite the European Commission to propose a legal act to implement the treaties.

In 2011, MEP Diana Wallis, ECI co-rapporteur in the Parliament, famously said that the ECI lets citizens “push the start button of the legislative process”. After over three years of use, none of nearly 50 proposed ECIs has resulted in a legislative proposal. It’s time to actually equip the ECI with this promised start button: the Commission must respond to all successful ECIs with a legislative proposal.

All ECI campaigns have struggled to collect signatures while respecting overly complex and bureaucratic procedures. Three miraculously succeeded. Yet none led to a legislative proposal. The Commission simply declined to act, leaving ECI supporters feeling betrayed.

Parliamentarians have been listening carefully to the experiences and concerns of ECI users. In September, the EP’s Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) committee unanimously approved a report whose recommendations, if fully implemented, would make the ECI both significantly easier to use and more impactful.

The ECI Campaign sent an open letter to President Martin Schulz and Members of European Parliament urging them to accept this ECI report, without amendment.

Now more than ever, the European Union needs what the ECI can offer: the ideas and involvement of its citizens, shared European goals to overcome national divisions and proof that EU leaders are committed to strengthening democracy. To this end, the ECI must be both easy to use and impactful.

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