A reform of the European citizens’ initiative to make it accessible to more people was informally agreed by Parliament and Council negotiators on Wednesday.
The updated rules on the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) aim to enable as many citizens as possible to launch or support new initiatives.
Making it easier to support and take part
The updated ECI will benefit from technological improvements, in particular for collecting signatures online and a collaborative platform to offer practical assistance to organisers. All information and the central collection system will have to be made accessible for people with disabilities. The European Commission will translate the initiatives into all EU official languages.
The Commission will now be able to “partially” register an initiative, in cases where the Commission only has the power to propose legislation on some, but not all, of its objectives. The Commission has to inform the organisers of the reasons for its decision.
The organisers will have six months (instead of three) after registration to choose when to start collecting signatures. More flexibility should benefit smaller, less equipped groups of organisers in particular.
Committee Chair Danuta Maria Hübner (EPP, PL) said: "My committee has been working intensely to improve the ECI ever since the beginning of this parliamentary term. I am happy to say that we succeeded to make this unique, European, democratic instrument more user-friendly and more engaging for citizens in the future. But I am also very disappointed that we didn't manage to convince the Member States to set the default minimum age to support an ECI at 16 years for all the EU."
Rapporteur György Schöpflin (EPP, HU) said: "This is so great for democracy, and excellent for the citizens of Europe! Discussions are over and the ECI will have new rules. It took time, but as rapporteur I can safely say that the citizens of Europe can now participate more effectively in the EU than ever."
The agreement now needs to be approved by the Constitutional Affairs Committee and Parliament as a whole as well as the Council of Ministers, before it can enter into force.
The European citizens’ initiative is the first-ever, transnational instrument of participatory democracy. Although since 2012, 9 million people from 28 countries have already signed one of the ECIs, a series of shortcomings still impede the full potential of this instrument as a platform to shape policy and influence democratic debate.