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European Citizens' Initiative

Raised hands in support for the ECI

European Citizens' Initiative


The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is a unique tool of transnational democracy, giving citizens the right to directly participate in setting the legislative agenda of the EU. By collecting one million signatures from at least seven member states within a year, an ECI can directly invite the European Commission to propose new law on the issue. 


The ECI is the fruit of arduous advocacy and campaign work led by Democracy International together with a coalition of 110 civil society actors and 41 members of the European Parliament. 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. 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 constitution: Story of the European Citizens' Initiative.

ECI reform

The ECI became legally effective on April 2012. By April 2015, the first review of the ECI is due. In the review process, the Commission has presented a report on the implementation of the ECI regulation with a view to its possible revision, to which the European Parliament is reacting with further recommendations. Experience - on the side of ECI organisers and EU officials - has revealed significant flaws in the ECI. Democracy International is campaigning for a thorough improvement of the ECI regulation. Visit the page of our current campaign to save the ECI.

Problems in the design of the ECI have excessively burdened ECI campaigners in the process - including legal obstacles, technical issues and bureaucratic burdens. Moreover, there is little guarantee that a successful ECI will have an actual impact on EU legislation.

Concerns have been expressed from many quarters across Europe that if there is not a serious improvement of the ECI regulation in 2015, this innovative democracy tool will be dead.

Yet the revision presents a window of opportunity for improvement. Democracy International, with the ECI Support Centre, has analysed the entire procedure, assessed practical experiences, and developed concrete recommendations to reform the ECI regulation. Our reform proposals include:

Accessible instrument

  1. Provide rejected ECIs with robust, comprehensible and transparent reasons for their rejection and the possibility to resubmit modified proposals up to three times in total
  2. Allow ECIs to include topics that may entail an invitation to the Commission to use its right to initiate proposals to amend the treaties
  3. Propose simpler and uniform data requirements across all member states to facilitate EU citizens wishing to sign an ECI, irrespective of their country of residence, through a voluntary EU registry

Dynamic Process

  1. Redesign Online Collection System to include a signing function directly on the register of ongoing ECIs and enable signatories to share their email address with ECI organisers
  2. Give ECI organisers a choice in the date for the launch of their ECI, within six months of its registration by the Commission
  3. Raise awareness and facilitate communication of running ECIs by creating a public ECI app for mobile devices with information and possibility of mobile signing

Powerful Impact

  1. If the Commission agrees to a successful ECI, it must come forward with a legislative proposal within one year, as it does with Parliament initiatives. In the case of rejection, the Commission must explain its political choices in a detailed and transparent manner
  2. A first public hearing in Parliament should be held if an ECI reaches 200,000 signatures within the first six months to give running ECIs a political platform and facilitate public debate on the issue
  3. The relevant Parliament committee must write a report on the subject of each successful ECI, with a co-rapporteur nominated by the ECI citizens’ committee. The report should be debated in full plenary followed by a vote. 

The upcoming review process presents an excellent opportunity to partner with civil society actors, politicians and civil servants alike to join efforts for an improvement of the ECI. Democracy International is working with actors in the EU institutions to channel our demands into the formal revision process.

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 advice to ECI organisers for launching and implementing an ECI and it develops innovative tools for its advancement. The Centre has produced a mobile application (Android), which monitors and analyses all ECI developments. Please access this document for the QR-Code of the app in the following document: eci_application.pdf.

Further Information

- EU-regulation on the European Citizens' Initiative (Nr. 211/ 2011)

- and see PDF documents below




More on the ECI...

Rat in Research for Animal testing, Image by Understanding Animal Research, public domain
The European Citizens' Initiative is the world's first transnational tool of participative democracy. But the system needs reform if it is to avoid...
The poster of the public hearing. Source: European Parliament
EU decision-makers and stakeholders met for a hearing on 26 February 2015 in the European Parliament to discuss the vital need for reform of the...
The panel of the first ECI hearing on "Right2Water"
In view of the upcoming review of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) the European Parliament is inviting experts and practitioners to a public...
The panel of the ECI Conference in Brussels on 10 December 2014
The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is a phenomenal tool of transnational direct democracy, allowing citizens to directly influence agenda-...
Dutch ECI campaign - Actress Victoria Koblenko signs our petition pro ECI
 Michael Efler at a press conference The inclusion of the European citizens' initiative in the draft constitution is a great success for all those...
Maroš Šefčovič. Photo by Audiovisual Services of European Commission
European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič has epxressed his strong support for Democracy International's fundraising campaign for an ECI App...

Website Info

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