The EU Commission can but is not required to respond by proposing new legislation, which means that the ECI is not a direct democracic instrument, but rather an agenda-setting instrumen. The ECI became legally effective in April 2012 with the EU regulation 211/2011, and a revision took place which went into effect 1 January 2020 with EU regulation 2019/788.
You can check out and sign all ongoing European Citizens' Initiatives on the official website of the European Commission.
As a result of concerted effort during the Convention on the Future of Europe (2001-2003) by Democracy International together with a coalition of 110 democracy organisations and 41 Members of the European Parliament (see supporting NGOs and supporting MEPs), the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) was incorporated into the Treaty on European Union. We successfully worked for the inclusion of the ECI through several campaigns. We then began work promoting citizen-friendly rules governing its use.
Read the ECI story written by campaigner Michael Efler in June 2003. He successfully lobbied with Carsten Berg for the inclusion of the citizens' initiative in the draft constitution.
The ECI Forum was introduced with the new regulation of the ECI and serves as an online collaborative platform that offers support to citizens in different stages of organising an ECI. The Forum provides practical information on the ECI and allows citizens to discuss EU policies and potential initaitives. It also helps citizens in the first stages of organising an ECI, from checking the legal feasiblity of a potential initaitive, to finding partners in other Member States, to offering tailor-made advice on campaigning, fundraising, or legal issues. The objective is to foster interaction on the ECI between potential organisers, citizens, and experts. The ECI Forum is run by European Citizens Action Service, Democracy International, and ProMedia as subcontractors under the European Commission. Sign up and register on the ECI Forum page here now!
In 2015, three years after the ECI implementation, the European Commission presented a report to the European Parliament and the Council as established in Article 22 of the ECI Regulation. This was an excellent opportunity for members of civil society organisations, politicians, and citizens to present their proposals for a feasible reform of the ECI. Experience on the side of ECI organisers, monitoring by civil society, and reports by the EU institutions have revealed several flaws in the ECI, such as lack of clarity in the initiative registration stage, complexity in collecting transnational signatures, and lack of public knowledge of the ECI itself holds it back from realizing its true potential. What's more, there is no guarantee that a successful ECI will have an impact on EU policy. Concerns have been expressed from many quarters across Europe that if there is not a serious improvement in the ECI's political impact, this innovative democracy tool will be obsolete.
A first review of the implementation was prescribed by the regulation in 2015. In the context of this review, the Commission presented in March 2015 a report assessing the shortcomings of the ECI tool. On 28 October 2015 the European Parliament voted for in favour of a reform of the ECI Regulation to improve accessibility, simplify rules, and strengthen the political impact.
In a monumental move for the ECI's reform, EU First Vice President Frans Timmermans announced at ECI Day 2017 that the Commission will begin the revision process of the ECI Regulation the same year. The Commission opened a 12-week online public consultation, where we along with Mehr Demokratie, The ECI Campaign, and the European Citizen Action Service published a joint suggested answers guide, and where over 5,300 citizens and NGOs took part in the Commission's consultation.
Democracy International and its partners Mehr Demokratie, The ECI Campaign, ECAS and WeMove.EU launched a petition calling on the European Commission to make the ECI reform a strong revision that addresses core issues. In August 2017, we went to Brussels and handed over 100,137 signatures to Mr. Antoine Colombani, Member of Cabinet of Vice-President Frans Timmermans. The European Commission responded with this letter.
Following the close of the public consultation and our stakeholder meeting with Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans on August 30th, the Commission published its proposal for a revised ECI. Read our response to the Commission's proposal.
Recommendations for a powerful ECI
The review process presented a window of opportunity for improvement. Throughout this process, Democracy International campaigned for a reform of the ECI regulation to thoroughly improve the participation instrument. We have analysed the procedure, assessed practical experiences, and developed concrete recommendations to reform the ECI regulation.
Read our position paper on the European Citizens' Initiative with recommendations to the Commission.
See a visual overview of the accepted and rejected recommendations.
Take a look at the final EU regulation 2019/788 that went into effect 1 January 2020.