The EUs "Citizens' Initiative" should be de-bureaucratised
Several countries have introduced their own citizens' initiative. Since March 2012, Finns who collect min. 50,000 signatures over six months can initiate a new law initiative in Parliament. (Photo: Finnish Embassy in Norway Website).
By Finn Rowold
The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) was founded in 2012, and according to the plan, evaluated three years later, i.e. in 2015. The main conclusion is that the idea is good, but it hasn’t worked satisfactorily in practice.
The ECI enables 1 million EU citizens from at least seven member states to submit their signatures, collected within 12 months, to the Commission to propose a legal act to be adopted in the treaty.
Now three years after the introduction of the initiative, 51 petitions have been signed comprising about 6 million citizens. Only three initiatives, i.e.”Right2Water”, “One of Us” and “Stop Vivisection” have been considered valid. 30% of the rejected initiatives have complained to either the Court of Justice or the Ombudsman. The negative legislative results have led to a dramatic decline in the initiatives.
The EU appointed commission for the evaluation of the ECI admits that it has substantial shortcomings, which should be solved as soon as possible in order to make the initiative more efficient. It should be more user-friendly, the main objective being to tie the citizens of Europe to the EU, according to a recommendation by the commission.
The recommendation suggests that the initiative should be simplified in practice and legally thus enabling as many citizens as possible to use the system. Suggestions include a simplification of registration by reducing 18 years to 16 years and an extension of the 12 months’ rule to 18 months. Native languages shall be allowed in all phases of the process and rejections shall be explained in detail.
Extensive information campaigns covering the commission and the individual member states should be carried out. The commission should consider setting up a special office for the ECI in its representations of the member states.
Finally, the commission proposes that the EU Parliament and the Ombudsman should be involved in the assessment of the applications.
The Latvian model
I believe that a modernisation and improvement of the ECI most emphatically should be part of My!Europe’s continued work for greater citizens’ involvement in Europe. We should add to the commission’s improvements by including elements from the citizens’ involvements we know exist in our countries.
As an example 10,000 citizens in Latvia - the "Mana Balss" or "Voice of the People" earlier disribed on these pages - can demand a subject treated in parliament and be helped with the proceedings, and not like in the EU, where the Commission exercises control to a greater extent.
A My!Europe initiative?
Maybe our considerations could lead to a launching of a collection of signatures with the purpose of improving the possibility of gaining influence in that way.
It will be interesting to see if we can get suggestions in our forthcoming conferences, however, direct responses to these considerations will also be very welcome.