Wednesday 17 April 2013

European Citizens' Initiative and Let Me Vote!

At the start of the month the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) turned one year old. The Commission has claimed it a success - Commissioner Maroš Šefčovič noted that:

"The Commission has received requests for the registration of 25 proposed citizens' initiatives, of which 16 initiatives were registered; two of these have since been withdrawn which means that we currently have 14 ongoing initiatives. The 8 initiatives that were refused did not meet the condition for registration in that they covered areas that fall outside the powers of the Commission. One request for registration is still under analysis.

Contrary to initial concerns, no – to speak with the language of the ECI Regulation – "abusive, frivolous or vexatious" ECIs have been submitted."

However the experiences of the Right2Water campaign may highlight the difficulties of running such campaigns under the "geographical balance" criteria and a variety of national rules on signature collection. As the Commissioner noted:

"So far, just one initiative, Right2Water, has managed to reach the goal of one million signatures – and well within a year, clear indication that it can be achieved with the right support and marketing. They are still collecting signatures, however, because they still need to meet the geographical balance required by the ECI regulation, and I wish them well with also reaching this target in due course."

Justin Stares has written over at Public Service Europe about the difficulties Right2Water faced:

"In Belgium, they have to give their date and place of birth plus their full address - meaning they have to write down their home country twice. If an individual fails to do so on the grounds that repetition must surely be redundant, there is a chance his or her signature will be invalidated. "If the authorities are very strict when checking our signatures then we can throw away half of them," says Sanchez. "If you write Stoke instead of Stoke-on-Trent they could say no, but there is pressure on the commission to be flexible." Requirements should be standardised across the EU, he says.

Country signature thresholds are based on a formula that produces sometimes bizarre if not outright ridiculous results: around 9,000 signatures are required in both Lithuania and Denmark, despite Denmark having a much larger population."

I'd recommend you read the full article.

The ECI legislation will be up for review in two years time. Despite the problems with the ECI, I hope people will keep campaigning and putting pressure on the Commission and European Parliament to consider their proposals. Without the pressure and voices of the campaigners, it may be difficult to push for reform of the problems with the system when the review is launched.

Stephen Spillane has highlighted on of the ECIs currently collecting signatures, Let Me Vote! This ECI is a campaign for EU citizens to be given the right to vote in the national elections of the Member State that they are resident in, giving them a voice in the policies of the country where they pay their taxes. Stephen will be looking at other ECIs over the next while too.


  1. Somehow the ECI is a reminder that the overly cautious EU is afraid of its citizens and that it manages to create a bureaucratic monster out of every molehill.

    After finishing the kafkaesque obstacle course the initiatiors have no guarantee of future legislation.

    Why not adopt the simple and informal White House system the next time the EU is forced to change a comma in one of its constricting treaties?

  2. If you just look into the present stage a straightforward process as the White House e-petition would be easier, sure. But then you miss one important point with the ECI. It is just the very first version of a direct-democratic hardware on the transnational level, which shall and must develop into a fullfledged process of not only agenda-setting but also decision-making.