European Parliament: European Citizens' Initiative must improve
Plenary debate in Strasbourg today
Members of all political groups of the European Parliament share the view that more people must know about the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) and that the technical problems of the new instrument of transnational direct democracy must be solved. This is the tenor of a plenary session held in Strasbourg today to mark the first anniversary of the European Citizens’ Initiative.
“2013 is the European Year of Citizens. The EU institutions must use this year to inform much more about the ECI and to solve the obstacles the ECI still faces today” demands Gerald Häfner, Chairperson of Democracy International and Member of European Parliament, who had initiated the debate in the European Parliament.
Since first April 2012 EU citizens can register a law proposal with the European Commission. It requires one million signatures from at least seven EU Member States in proportion to their size of population to be submitted to the Commission. During the first year 14 ECIs were successfully registered with the European Commission. However, only one initiative, the ECI “Water is a Human Right”, succeeded in gathering the necessary amount of one million signatures. Yet this ECI still lacks the required amount of signatures from seven EU countries.
Organisers of ECIs complain that the technical and procedural requirements for the online collection system are too strict and too bureaucratic. Also they had to face severe problems with the online collection system provided by the European Commission that did not work initially, causing delays and extra financial resources. These technical problems were reflected in the debate of the European Parliament today.
“Europe needs more democracy. In times of the financial crisis, active citizens’ involvement is more urgent than ever. The EU institutions must change their attitude and do everything possible to support citizens’ engagement with EU politics. Therefore they must remove the technical and bureaucratic barriers that still hinder the effective use of the European Citizens’ Initiative”, Gerald Häfner concludes his remarks.