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Sunday, April 5, 2015

3 years of the European Citizens' Initiative

Article 11(4) of the Lisbon Treaty created the European Citizens’ Initiative, as a new tool for citizens to influence the politics of the European Union. A Regulation was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council on 16 February 2011 which defined the detailed rules. National authorities were designated to certifying the online support collection system and to verify the statements of support and delivering the relevant certificate as for an initiative to be successful, it has to be backed by at least one million EU citizens, coming from at least 7 out of the 28 member states. A minimum number of signatories is required in each of those 7 member states. The proposal must be in an area where the Commission has the power to propose legislation, for example environment, agriculture, transport or public health. If an initiative receives the necessary number of signatures, the Commission has to take action within 3 months after receiving the initiative.
The organisers get the opportunity to explain in detail the issues raised in their initiative to the Commission and at a public hearing in the European Parliament
The Commission is not obliged to propose legislation as a result of an initiative but has to publish a formal response – published in all 24 EU official languages - spelling out what action it will propose in response to the citizens' initiative, if any, and the reasons for doing or not doing so.. If the Commission decides to put forward a legislative proposal, the normal legislative procedure kicks off: the Commission proposal is submitted to the legislator and, if adopted, it becomes law.
The process can be found here in detail , so I will not talk about it more.

The Commission recently summarised the experience with the initiatives and published a report about it.
Since April 2012 till the date of the report, end March 2015, the Commission has received 51 requests for registration of proposed citizens’ initiatives. 31 of them were registered (16 registrations in 2012, nine in 2013, five in 2014 and one in 2015). 20 proposed initiatives did not fulfil the registration criteria and therefore could not be registered. The most frequently cited reason for refusal was that the subject of the initiative was outside the legislative powers of the EU and thus did not qualify for being a European Citizens’ Initiative.
18 initiatives have reached the end of their collection period (10 others were withdrawn before the end of their collection period). Among those 18, three initiatives have reached the required number of statements of support and were submitted to the Commission. Two of them have already received a formal response from the Commission: 'Water and sanitation are a human right! Water is a public good, not a commodity!' ('Right2Water') and 'One of us'.
The first one calls for: 1. The EU institutions and Member States be obliged to ensure that all inhabitants enjoy the right to water and sanitation. 2. Water supply and management of water resources not be subject to ‘internal market rules’ and that water services are excluded from liberalisation. 3. The EU increases its efforts to achieve universal access to water and sanitation.
After the organisers met the Commission and a public hearing took place in the European Parliament, the topic was taken up in the course of actions concerning the Drinking Water Directive. The evaluation of the directive is ongoing. The roadmap will be published shortly The EP Rapporteur presented the first draft of the Environment Committee Report on the Right2Water initiative. The vote in the Committee is provisionally scheduled for 26/05/2015 and the vote in the EP Plenary is provisionally foreseen for 08/06/2015
. The second one calls for a ban and end the financing of activities which presuppose the destruction of human embryos, in particular in the areas of research, development aid and public health.
There was a meeting with the organisers and a public hearing in the European Parliament. As a result, the Commission has decided not to submit a legislative proposal as the policy of the EU is clear and rigorous rules are in place. 156.7 million euros were spent on stem cell research out of a total of 6 billion between 2007 and 2013 and Embryonic stem cells are unique and offer the potential for life-saving treatments, with clinical trials already underway. The Commission will continue to apply the strict ethical rules and restrictions in place for EU-funded research, including not funding the destruction of embryos.
The third one ('Stop vivisection') is under examination by the Commission and will receive an answer by 3 June 2015.
Looking at the aborted and refused initiatives, there are three main areas where most of the initiatives fall into: Social questions (of course the proposal for an unconditional basic income is one of them) like protection of minorities, cohesion policy for the equality of the regions and sustainability of the regional cultures and a new European poverty criterion or the one to stop legal prositution, animal welfare, like “Dairy Cow Welfare” “Ethics for Animals (and Kids)” and political – some of them outrightly provocative like “Stop TTIP”, the one calling for a self-abolition of the European Parliament and its structures or the one entitled: “Should the current failing form of EG be replaced by one without democratic deficit?”.
A handful of initiatives dealt with environmental questions, among them the one of the three hitherto successful ones.
Still are open , one of them calling for an online collection plpatform for support of citizens’ initiatives, one to stop the climate initiatives except energy efficiency unless other big emitters also agree. A software tool for online data collection enables citizens to support a given initiative and organizers to manage its operations.
Further information can be found here.

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