Key messages:

    • The European Commission undoubtedly introduced administrative, technical, logistical and communicative improvements to the European Citizens’ Initiative in the draft regulation, which make it more user-friendly.
    • In the new regulation, the conflict of interest (Commission as judge and party) does not get a solution. On the contrary, the Commission increases its control at all stages of the ECI procedure.
    • The ECI is a legalistic piece of work, but never gives the impression that the Commission is doing anything to involve citizens in the European political debate in a participatory manner.
  • Praising the European Citizens Initiative (ECI), the rapporteur concurs that it can help to respond to the perceived democratic deficit of the European Union and to bridge the gap between EU citizens and European institutions and policy makers. However, whilst acknowledging that the proposed regulation is a step in the right direction towards improving the ECI, he believes there is still room to address the remaining procedural, administrative and political constraints, which would enable it to become a successful part of the EU’s democratic fabric, lead to genuine political debates and receive more substantial political follow-up by the EU institutions. The rapporteur is specifically concerned by the strength of the Commission’s hand in terms of its involvement at all stages of the procedure. He therefore proposes that the Commission submits the request for registration to an independent committee of seven members, made up of lawyers, academics and representatives of European civil society, who shall assess the admissibility of the request for registration. They may hold a hearing with the group of organisers before providing the Commission with a reasoned decision, upon which basis a decision can be taken. He would also like to see a greater role for the European Parliament, who could and should also act as a guarantor of political follow-up to successful ECIs and internalisation of the political message of ECIs that do not reach the required number of signatures. He further suggests that the collection period for getting the required 1 million signatures is increased to 18 months, which would be less of a deterrent for potential initiative organisers.

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