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Direct Democracy takes off at European level

Direct Democracy takes off at European level


'Water is a Human Right’ first European Citizens’ Initiative to reach the “magic” line - With more than 800 000 signatures collected as of today, the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) ‘Water is a Human Right’ most likely is to become the first European Citizens’ Initiative to reach one million signatures. This is the necessary amount for a citizen proposal to be considered by the European Commission as a piece of law citizens want to see realised in the EU.


Since the beginning of this year tens of thousands of Europeans have increasingly signed the citizens’ initiative, which aims at implementing water and sanitation as a human right and providing water as a public good by keeping it out of the internal market rules. The numbers jumped up while the European Commission proposed draft legislation that aims at granting public bodies the right to tender public services to private businesses, including water distribution (“Directive on Concessions”).

“This is a critical moment as the European Union once again struggles to establish a modern representative democracy based on the rule of law, the delegation of powers and citizens’ participation”, says Bruno Kaufmann, President of the Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe. “The European Citizens’ Initiative now is in a dynamic working mode, so we can take a step from theory to practice of transnational democracy”, adds Kaufmann.  

The Initiative and Referendum Institute, Democracy International and numerous activists throughout Europe transformed an early input by the citizens´ network “eurotopia” in 1991 into a broad campaign that started at the beginning of the new millennium. The European Citizens’ Initiative became part of the Constitutional Treaty in 2003 and the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. The ECI is the first democratic process which is direct, digital and transnational at the same time. It requires one million signatures from at least seven EU Member States in order to be submitted to the European Commission.

“The ‘Water is a Human Right’ initiative is an ideal example of citizens proposing law. It is substantially organized. It has the sound back-up by trade unions and well known supporters throughout Europe, comments Carsten Berg, director of the ECI Campaign – a grassroots coalition of democracy advocates dedicated to the successful implementation of the ECI instrument. “However, we have to improve the infrastructure of the ECI so that less powerful initiators will succeed in collecting the required amount of signatures also. This includes installing a new and user-friendly online collection system and lowering the strict hurdles” demands Carsten Berg.

The first ECIs were launched in May 2012.Until now 26 paneuropean initiatives have been filed with the EU. Four out of these 26 ECIs were withdrawn and seven were refused as the European Commission deemed them inadmissible. Currently, there are 15 European Citizens’ Initiatives open for signature gathering. Each of them has one year time to collect the required amount. Signatures for the ECI ‘Water is a Human Right” can be collected until 1st November 2013.

Further information:
- Website „Water is a Human Right“ at
- Website by the European Commission listing all ECIs at
- An updated user manual to the European Citizens’ Initiative is available at

- Image courtesy of Right to water Initiative, EPSU: 

Press contact Cora Pfafferott: +49 2203/ 5928 68 (office), +49 176 954 373 79 (GSM)

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