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Why the Commission’s proposal is nipping the citizen’s initiative in the bud
April 4th, 2010 by Eurosocialiste

I’ve never been a great fan of the concept of the European citizen’s initiative. Having to mobilise 1.000.000 people to submit an idea for review by the Commission without the Commission having any obligation to actually act on it, I’ve always thought it could potentially produce great deception, rather than foster enthusiasm for European issues. On the other hand, in times where barely half of the citizens bother to vote to elect their political representatives, I think that any initiative that aims at fostering more citizen participation is good to take, especially when the initiative is meant to promote pan-European debates as it is the case here.

So I read carefully the Commission’s proposal for the citizen’s initiative, and as many commentators (see here, here, here, and here), I was disappointed. The general feeling is that the initial spirit of the citizen’s initiative will be nipped in the bud by unnecessary administrative requirements.

  1. The main problem to me is to require petition signatories to give their ID number. Honestly, who would give their ID number to petition organisers? I wouldn’t, and I’m not even a very wary person. First name, last name, city of residence, email or phone number should be more than enough.
  2. Petition organisers would only get 12 months after they officially register their petition to get 1.000.000 signatories in 1/3rd of member states. Surely that will favour large organisations that have established networks and permanent staff, and will not give enough time for individual citizens to set up campaigns from scratch during their free time. The citizen’s initiative is meant to get citizens actively involved in the political process, not large organisations.
  3. A citizen’s initiative would be checked for admissibility after 300.000 signatures have been collected. In my opinion, that should be done right at the beginning, or not at all. Is there really a need to have it checked anyway? Does it really matter if the initiative doesn’t fall in the competences of the Commission and/or the EU? These are not carved in marble after all.
  4. The proposal also requires that online petitions should have adequate security features. What does that mean exactly? Does it mean that petition organisers would have to purchase expensive security software to get their petition approved? Again, that would favour large organisations, and kill many grass-root campaigns from emerging.
  5. Finally, it would apparently be up to each member state to verify the validity of signatures. So a petition organiser would have to submit its support forms to 9 member states at least. More red-tape again. Less room for citizen-led initiatives.

If ever one petition manages to fulfil all the requirements, it’s not even sure the Commission would make a proposal according to the petition’s request, and the proposal would have to get the European Parliament’s and the Council’s approval anyway. So I can’t help but wonder… is there really a need for that many security safeguards -admissibility check, security software, signatories’ ID numbers and address, authentication of statements of support by member states, etc?

Both the European Parliament and the Council will have to examine the proposal now. Maybe it’s time for some citizen lobbying? Davygee on Twitter the other day suggested to set up a social media campaign to improve the Commission’s proposal. Who’s up for it?

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10 Responses  
  • Stephen Spillane writes:
    April 4th, 2010 at 20:16

    What about countries that don’t have ID numbers? Like the UK and Ireland? That hasn’t been taken into account has it?

  • Eurosocialiste writes:
    April 4th, 2010 at 20:54

    Apparently for countries that don’t have ID cards, the social security number would be requested…

  • Eurocentric writes:
    April 5th, 2010 at 00:25

    I’d be up for it. It’s important to get the C.I. right, and the ID bureaucracy and the member state thresholds threaten to kill off its potential for generating pan-European debate.

  • Joe Social writes:
    April 5th, 2010 at 17:07

    well, this proposal was drafted by a Socialist Central European Commissioner. A former Communist party member turned diplomat and now Commissioner… plus ca change…

  • Η Ευρωπαϊκή Ένωση, ένας θεσμός βαθιά αντιδημοκρατικός « Η Χελώνα writes:
    April 6th, 2010 at 21:48

    [...] EU proposes rules on new democratic instrument European Commission, obsoleted by the lightening pace at which the Internet changes expectations Why the Commission’s proposal is nipping the citizen’s initiative in the bud [...]

  • bloggingportal.eu Blog & Support » Blog Archive » The Week in Bloggingportal: (Mis)Understanding Europe Multilingually writes:
    April 11th, 2010 at 13:53

    [...] At the beginning of the week, Jon and eurosocialiste (both Bloggingportal.eu editors) slammed the European Commission’s proposal for the rules of [...]

  • Mathew Lowry’s Tagsmanian Devil » Blog Archive » Blogtour: first reactions to the ECI proposal writes:
    April 14th, 2010 at 09:30

    [...] But that was before the Commission put forward its proposal for the ECI Regulation (site, pdf). Judging by the following reactions, the Commission clearly has no need for help in safeguarding their current reputation: “is there really a need for that many security safeguards – admissibility check, security software, signatories’ ID numbers and address, authentication of statements of support by member states, etc?” – Eurosocialist [...]

  • JEF Europe writes:
    April 26th, 2010 at 15:12

    Interesting reflections.

    You can find many answers on the following 1-page open letter: http://www.citizensinitiative.eu/. Please feel warmly invited to spread the news in the blogosphere and forward the link to any political representatives you know.

    This could be the start of a social media campaign…

  • Aaron McLoughlin writes:
    May 10th, 2010 at 14:49

    Governments, let alone the Commission, are not too keen to hear a million + people tell them to do something. The European Zoo industry (EAZA) collected over a million + signatures in their campaign against ‘bushmeat’. The European Parliament’s petition committee were at a miss what to do with that many boxes, and the Commission were unimpressed that many people would want Europe to change their policies that contributed to the destruction of the great ape in africa. But, the time for europe’s citzens to speak directly is now.

  • A roadmap in the making: the EESC and the Citizen’s Initative | The Albion Alliance presents writes:
    March 21st, 2011 at 22:01

    [...] Initiative once this was launched in March. Claimed to have too many constraints and safeguards, with no proper time frames and completely unworkable, this proposal saw itself being finalised [...]


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