Democracy International, the Initiative and Referendum Institute (IRI Europe), the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) and several other groups throughout Europe had transformed an early input by the citizens' network “eurotopia” in 1991 into a broad campaign that started at the beginning of the new millennium. The civil society organisations worked hard for the European Citizens’ Initiative to be included in in the Constitutional Treaty in 2003 and later the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.
The ECI came into practice on 1 April 2012, when the European Commission opened the official registry. The ECI requires one million signatures from at least seven EU Member States in order to be submitted to the European Commission, from which the signatures must be distributed proportionately according to size of population of these EU Member States.
“There are still far too many people in the EU who do not know that they can influence European politics with the European Citizens' Initiative. Also, there are far too few ECIs which can actually manage to collect the required amount of one million signatures in order to be acknowledged by the European Commission as a piece of law citizens want to see realised in the EU. Overall, 14 ECIs are now open to signature collection, yet only one ECI, the initiative “Water is a human right”, has successfully gathered the necessary number of one million. And even this ECI has not reached the necessary country-specific quota. That is why we are disappointed”, states Bruno Kaufmann, of IRI Europe, on behalf of the civil society organisations who lobbied for the integration of the ECI into the EU Treaties.
Democracy International, IRI Europe, ECAS and the ECI campaign have produced a briefing paper providing an assessment of the European Citizens’ Initiative in practice. It is available here .
To make a real success of ECIs, there has to be more public awareness of this new right, a better resourced citizens’ infrastructure and further efforts in 2015, when the regulation can be revised to make it more simple and uniform. The European Commission should open a consultation process on the experience so far and proposals for the revision of the EU legislation on the European Citizens’ Initiative.
From the report and the discussion at an expert seminar on 19 March, this message can be translated in 10 recommendations, see here.