On 12 December 2018, the Austrian presidency and representatives of the European Parliament reached a provisional deal on changes to the European Citizens' Initiative.
The new regulation agreed between the Council and the Parliament includes a number of improvements aimed at making this instrument easier to use and widening participation.
The European Citizens' Initiative offers an opportunity for everyone to engage directly with EU decision-makers. I hope that this revision will encourage more Europeans, in particular young citizens, to be actively involved in shaping EU policies and laws which affect their lives.
Juliane Bogner-Strauss, Austrian Federal Minister for Women, Families and Youth
The changes include the introduction of a central online system for the collection of signatures, which will be freely available by 1 January 2020. This system will allow signatures collected on paper to be uploaded and will offer e-ID for support. The Commission will involve stakeholders in its further development.
In order to allow for a smooth transition to the common system, individual collection systems can also continue to be used for initiatives registered before the end of 2022.
Other improvements include:
-enhanced information and assistance to the organisers, including the creation of contact points in Member States and an online collaborative platform
-the possibility of partial registration of initiatives
-translation of initiatives and their annexes into all EU languages
-enabling organisers to choose the start date of the 12-month collection period
-allowing EU citizens to support an initiative regardless of their country of residence
-extending the examination phase and providing for a more inclusive public hearing for successful initiatives
Initiatives can be signed by EU citizens whose age entitles them to vote in elections to the European Parliament. However, member states will be able to set the minimum age at 16 years and are encouraged to consider doing this, in accordance with their national laws.
The provisional agreement reached between the presidency and the Parliament will be submitted to the Council's Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) for approval on 19 December.
The regulation also needs to be voted in the European Parliament before final adoption by the Council next year.
Under the EU treaties, the European Commission has the sole right of legislative initiative, with exceptions in only a few areas.
The European Citizens' Initiative is an instrument of participatory democracy which enables one million EU citizens from at least one quarter of the member states to invite the Commission to propose a legal act in areas where it has the power to do so.
In the event of a successful European Citizens' Initiative, the Commission is required to provide its answer in a communication setting out its legal and political conclusions on the initiative, the action it intends to take, if any, and its reasons for taking or not taking action.