“Over the past three years the European Citizens‘ Initiative has been reduced to an ineffective placebo. Not one of the 51 launched initiatives has managed to become EU law. The hurdles have just been too high. Given this, we strongly welcome the recognition of the Commission that the ECI requires improvement to fulfil its full potential. The ECI needs to be strengthened, as Europe can only evolve further if people participate”, states Gerald Häfner, board member of Democracy International.
The EU regulation on the European Citizens’ Initiative (Regulation 211/2011) requires the European Commission to present a report every three years, in which it analyse the practice of the ECI with a view to its improvement. The report presented today is the first review since the ECI became effective on 1st April 2012.
Facts: the implementation of the ECI
Since 1st April 2012 EU citizens have launched 51 European Citizens’ Initiatives. Out of those 51 ECIs the European Commission declared 20 as inadmissible. 28 ECIs failed to collect the required one million signatures (originating from at least seven EU Member States according to country-specific quorums). Only three ECIs succeeded in qualifying for submission to the European Commission: the initiatives “Water is a Human Right” (aiming at safeguarding water as a public good), “Stop Vivisection” (for abolishing animal testing) and “One of Us” (against stem cell research with human embryos). However, the European Commission has not turned any of these successful ECIs into law. The organising committee of “One of Us” brought proceedings before the General Court, demanding detailed reasons for the rejection of the ECI.
Demands of Democracy International
“When more than one million EU citizens sign a European Citizens’ Initiative, the EU Commission reacts only with a written Communication. The EU Parliament invites organisers for a public hearing, however generally only the parliamentary committees involved attend this. This meagre impact is demotivating for all ECI organisers. That is why we call on the European Parliament to discuss and vote on each successful ECI in full plenum. And the European Commission should provide rejected initiatives with robust and transparent reasons. Citizens will only see a potential in the European Citizens’ Initiative if it has a real influence on EU policy,” says Gerald Häfner who had fought for a citizen-friendly ECI as the European Parliament’sa rapporteur during the European Parliament’s last legislative period.
Origins of the ECI
Democracy International, Mehr Demokratie Germany, the Initiative and Referendum Institute (IRI Europe), the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), The ECI Campaign and several other groups throughout Europe began a broad campaign in the beginning of the new millennium demanding more European democracy. Civil society organisations campaigned extensively for the European Citizens’ Initiative to be included in the draft Constitutional Treaty in 2003 and in the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. The ECI came into practice on 1 April 2012, when the European Commission opened the official registry.
- The European Commission's report on the European Citizens' Initiative presented on 31 March 2015
- Democracy International's recommendations for ECI reform
- EU Regulation of the European Citizens‘ Initiative (EU regulation 211/ 2011)
- The European Commission’s website on ongoing ECIs , closed ECIs and ECIs declared as inadmissible
- The history of the ECI