Take Control

Campaign for the European Citizens’ Initiative

, by Carsten Berg

All the versions of this article: [English] [français] [italiano]

Campaign for the European Citizens' Initiative

One year ago the European Heads of State declared a phase of reflection on the future of Europe. Reconnecting European citizens with institutions seemed to be the key, but still today it remains totally unclear what they want to do. In parallel many European citizens and civil society organisations got their heads ballooned and explored how to give the European project a new direction. We need a movement from bottom-up, and there is a consensus about this. To start an action everywhere in Europe involving many European citizens at the same time sounds cool and beautiful. It is about democracy and we can make a difference, but we need something concrete and fruitful.

It is this particular context, in which different youth organisations like the European Youth Forum, the European Students Forum and different JEF-sections are developing a Europe-wide bottom-up project: the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). This campaign calls for the introduction of the right to start European Citizens’ Initiatives. So far we as Europeans Citizens are still imprisoned in national politics. There is no chance yet to get together as Europeans at the transnational level and set the political agenda of the EU. The right to start European Citizens’ Initiatives will help to overcome this problem.

Being issue-focused, the right of initiative will contribute to shaping an open European public space around key debates that reflect citizens’ real concerns. In other words, the ECI will not only help to close the gap between citizens and institutions, but also foster the development of a vivid European civil society.

The central idea of this campaign is to collect as many signatures as possible of people from all member states, demanding the introduction of the ECI by the EU. The campaign is now in the preparatory phase, working towards a series of events, widespread publicity and a large-scale drive for signatures in autumn 2006.

At this stage the campaign is supported by more than 35 organizations and prominent former Convention members like the French conservative Alain Lamassoure, the Spanish socialist Carlos Carnero and the representative of the German Bundestag Prof. Jürgen Meyer. Furthermore the President of the Constitutional Affairs Committee Jo Leinen (honorary member of JEF-Europe) in the European Parliament and Gabriele Fragnière, former rector of the College of Europe, were among the first signatories and active supporters.

Commit yourself, sign as well and spread the word to motivate others becoming active in this Europe-wide action. By creating this campaign we are showing that we have the will and capacity to take the European project into our own hands.

Your comments
  • On 12 July 2006 at 13:28, by Emmanuel Vallens Replying to: Campaign for the European Citizens’ Initiative

    I just do not understand this.

    First, from a strategic point of view, making a petition to have the right of petition seems a bit bizarre. Why not a petition for a petition for a petition?

    Second, we already have the right of petition. And we do not need 1 million citizens to exercise it.

    Third, if this right of citizen’s initiative aims at setting the EU legislative agenda, thus going further than the current right of petition, I would like to have more details, which I didn’t find in this article or on the website.

    This “right of initiative” was forseen in the constitutional treaty, and as I understand it, the aim of this campaign is to have it enter into force although the constitution was rejected, by introducing it through a European Regulation.

    Unfortunately, if this was proposed as a constitutional reform, it is precisely because this “right” is an outright violation of the current treaties, because it impedes on the Commission’s exclusive right of initiative by requiring it to respond positively to the petition (otherwise the so-called “right” would be meaningless, and not more important than the current right of petition).

    Furthermore, the current treaties do not have any appropriate legal basis for such an EU regulation. The only one I’ve heard of is article 308 of the EC treaty. But even this very far-reaching article, which allows the EU institutions to pass a Directive or a Regulation even if the necessary powers are not provided for by the treaty, cannot be applied here, because it may only be used for the achievement of the single market, an issue which isn’t at stake in the present case.

    In a word, this campaign is politically questionnable and legally ill-founded. So I really do not understand it.

  • On 14 July 2006 at 18:53, by Carsten Berg Replying to: Reply to Emmanuel’s text above

    The concept of the European Citizens’ Initiative is quite easy to understand. One million European citizens can call on the European Commission to propose a change to European law.

    This campaign calls for the introduction of the right of Citizens’ Initiative, which has to be distinguished from the right of petition! The already existing right of petition is addressed to the European Parliament where the request mostly ends up on a big pile and is hardly ever considered seriously. Or could you name me one petition, which has been successful? A petition is an individual right, in other words it can be started by just one person and it is mostly used as an instrument of complaint. On the contrary the right of initiative is a much more meaningful and powerful instrument because you have to qualify for it. Since one million signatures represent a mass of Europeans and since the signatures have to come from several European member states, the weight of a citizens’ initiative is much higher than a petition. Moreover, the Citizens’ Initiative would be dealt by the Commission (and not by the Parliament). By the way this is first direct link between the citizens and the Commission. Thus the Commission CAN directly initiate the legislative process if it considers the proposal as important. One must stress that the Commission can start the legislative process, they are not obliged to do so. That’s why the right of Citizens’ Initiative does not affect the institutional balance and consequently does not require a treaty change. However the European Commission would be forced to give a public response to an initiative signed by at least one million European citizens and be much less inclined to ignore the European citizens’ request. This will constitute an important step towards a more vivid, genuine European public sphere, where citizens have a say.

    Well-known lawyers (including those from the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik, which is a think-tank consulting the German Government) have checked the legal possibilities of introducing the right of initiative. And the conclusion is clear: Legally the ECI could be implemented at once. It is just a question of political willingness to act, and this political will is missing at this moment within the European institutions and among the European heads of state. However the European Council recently agreed on its June-summit to make “full use of the possibilities offered by existing treaties”. This includes more transparency in the Council, which the Austrian Presidency just put into force. In analogy to this, also the right for European Citizens’ Initiatives could be put into force under the German Presidency next year. By the way also the European Parliament expressed in its resolution on the phase of reflection that there are at least three elements of democratic reform mentioned in the constitutional text, which are already implementable now: Transparency in the Council, the so called “watchdogs” for national parliaments on EU-legislation (also already put into force under the Austrian Presidency) and the European Citizens’ Initiative. So this transnational campaign for the implementation for the European Citizens’ Initiative is exactly what Europe needs right now and is absolutely zeitgeisty.

Your comments

Warning, your message will only be displayed after it has been checked and approved.

Who are you?

To show your avatar with your message, register it first on gravatar.com (free et painless) and don’t forget to indicate your Email addresse here.

Enter your comment here

This form accepts SPIP shortcuts {{bold}} {italic} -*list [text->url] <quote> <code> and HTML code <q> <del> <ins>. To create paragraphs, just leave empty lines.

Follow the comments: RSS 2.0 | Atom