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EU Parliament pushes for stronger EU Citizens' Initiative

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The constitutional committee voting on ECI reform proposals on 28 September 2015

EU Parliament pushes for stronger EU Citizens' Initiative

28-09-2015

On 28 September 2015, the Constitutional Committee (AFCO) of the European Parliament agreed on proposals to reform the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). This is the instrument that allows EU citizens to directly propose EU law to the European Commission.

The outcome of the vote is a forwardlooking reform of the ECI featuring better support for ECI organisers, more flexibility in terms of ECI registration and more access by lowering the eligibility to 16-year-old EU citizens. Moreover, it is proposed that successful ECIs will have a public hearing in full plenary. At the same time AFCO voted against the proposal that an ECI could also deal with primary law, which means EU treaty change.

Democracy International welcomes today’s proposals by the commitee of the EU Parliament as an important step to reform the process of the European Citizens’ Initiative. “It is great that the Constitutional Committee of the European Parliament included reforms proposed by active citizens from across Europe and which are rooted in the experience of the first three years with the ECI in practice ” underlines Bruno Kaufmann, board member of Democracy International.

“Given the increasingly negative track record of the European Citizens’ Initiative, this instrument definitely needs to improve. Yet there is more to the ECI than a well-equipped toolbox. Europe's citizens must have the right to initiate legislation as other EU institutions, who can propose amendments to the Treaties”, states Bruno Kaufmann, a political scientist and journalists who has been campaigning for the new instrument for almost 25 years, together civil society groups like Democracy International from across Europe. 

Reform proposals in detail

Today the EU deputies of the Constitutional Committee agreed on a number of new rules to govern the European Citizens’ Initiative. Support for ECI organisers will be strengthened as Europe Direct Contact Centre are to provide guidance from early stages onwards. Also, the European Economic Social Committee offered to provide free translation of ECI texts. More flexibility will be granted as parts of an ECI can be accepted. Finally, AFCO also proposed to lower the eligibility for signing an ECI to 16 years old in all member states.

Reform process

Today’s vote happened in the context of the reform process that the European Citizens’ Initiative is currently going through in the EU institutions. The European Commission issued a report on 31 March 2015 assessing the implementation of the ECI. Subsequently, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs of the Parliament drafted a report. The constitutional committee voted on all reform proposals today on 28 September 2015.

Next steps

All Members of the European Parliament will vote on the report on the European Citizens’ Initiative in the plenary sitting of the Parliament in late October or early November (date still to be confirmed). This final report then will be handed to the EU Council and the European Commission. The final agreement regarding the reform of the ECI will be made at the beginning of 2016.

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