Birth of the ECI
The ECI is the fruit of arduous advocacy and campaign work led 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 concerted efforts began during the Convention on the Future of Europe (2001-2002) and succeeded with the ECI’s inclusion in the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.
Story of the European Citizens' Initiative: Read the account of our campaigner Michael Efler from 2003, in which he describes how he successfully lobbied together with Carsten Berg for the adoption of the ECI in the Draft EU Constitution.
ECI reform needed
The ECI became legally effective in April 2012 with the EU regulation 211/2011. Experience on the side of ECI organisers as well as EU officials has revealed significant flaws in the ECI. Problems in the current design of the ECI include legal obstacles, technical issues and bureaucratic burdens. Moreover, there is almost 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 of the ECI regulation soon, this innovative democracy tool will be obsolete.
A first review of the implementation is prescribed by the regulation for 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.
Recommendations for a powerful ECI
The review process presents a window of opportunity for improvement. Throughout this process, Democracy International is campaigning for a reform of the ECI regulation to thoroughly improve the participation tool.
Democracy International has analysed the entire procedure, assessed practical experiences, and developed concrete recommendations to reform the ECI regulation. Many of these recommendations were included in the European Parliament's resolution on improving the ECI, including legal and financial support for ECI organisers, more flexibility (regarding time and content) during the registration, lowering of the participation age to 16, and imposing the same obligation on the Commission to respond to citizens' initiatives as to initativies coming from the Parliement.
Some further-reaching reforms proposed by Democracy International have not been included in the Parliament's resolution, including:
- Allow ECIs to include topics that may include proposals to amend the Treaties, rather than rejecting these from the outset
- All ECIs that successfully collect one million signatures should receive a legislative proposal from the Commission within one year
- A first public hearing in Parliament should be held if an ECI reaches 200,000 signatures to give running ECIs a political platform and facilitate public debate
Now it is up to the European Commission to follow up on this, but it has refused to make any legal amendments to the ECI regulation (read response here). In protest, Democracy International and its partners Mehr Demokratie and The ECI Campaign have launched a petition calling on the European Commission to immediately revise the ECI regulation so that the scope and implementation of the ECI is improved.
In October 2016, the organisations Democracy International, Mehr Demokratie and The ECI Campaign handed over the 40,996 signatures collected to Mr. Antoine Colombani, Member of Cabinet of Vice-President Frans Timmermans, for a reform of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). The European Commission responded with this letter.
ECI Support Centre
Democracy International is a partner of the ECI Support Centre, a joint initiative with the European Citizen Action Service and the Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe. The Support Centre gives legal, campaigning and broadcasting advice to ECI organisers and it develops innovative tools for the ECI's advancement. The Centre is producing a mobile app to make all ECI developments accessible to the public and to enable ciitzens to sign initiatives. A preliminary Android beta-version of the app is accessible via the following document: eci_application.pdf.
- Democracy International's petition campaign to the European Parliament
- EU-Regulation on the ECI (Nr. 211/ 2011)
- European Parliament's Resolution on the ECI (28 October 2015)
- European Commission's ECI Report (31 March 2015)
- ECI reform process: important dates and events (status: 23 September 2015)
- Status of ongoing and closed ECIs
- ECI procedure step-by-step