Opportunity missed in overhauling the failing ECI
When it was launched amidst much fanfare in 2012, the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) was supposed to be the EU’s answer to greater citizen and legislative participation to our democratic life – a direct say across borders and digitally.
However, only two ECIs out of the 67 launched have ever resulted in a legislative proposal from the Commission: Water and Sanitation are a Human Right and StopGlyphosate – a meagre 3% success rate.
Although numerous administrative hurdles have been set aside, the Commission is still effectively the judge, jury and executioner in deciding whether an ECI is receivable. For this reason, a radical overhaul is needed to give citizens real influence in setting the Commission’s agenda.
Italian MEP Barbara Spinelli (Independent) said after today’s vote:
“For four years, we’ve been dealing with a fading instrument that is the European Citizens’ Initiative. The whole purpose of reviving it was to tackle the main challenges of our time: the deep crisis of representative democracy, the attack of the governing powers against NGOs and trade unions, and the ever-increasing demand for direct or participatory democracy.”
“But the new regulation allows the Commission to maintain its monopoly on the legislative follow-up of ECIs and to remain solely responsible for the collection of online signatures. The efficient individual online collections systems will also be banned – completely ignoring NGOs’ wishes,” she added.
“It is like creating a technologically more accessible smartphone that cannot make phone calls; user-friendly but not citizens-friendly. Thankfully, the Citizens’ Initiative isn’t completely dead – it’s just in a coma. Citizens across the EU will have been very disappointment at this very moment,” she concluded.
Also commenting on the vote, Greek MEP Kostadinka Kuneva (SYRIZA) said:
“How is it even possible to set obstacles some 80 days before the European Elections? The European Citizens’ Initiative was supposed to be a tool of direct democracy – a value that it should be cherished, not undermined – especially in our Union that still tries to cope with the question of the democratic deficit.”
“Citizens expect us to create legislation that is useful for them that can be used to deal with certain issues and problems of everyday life. Otherwise, why should they trust us? Why would they consider voting for us when we don’t take their concerns under consideration?” she argued.
“For me, it was impossible to vote in favour of the text as it stood. It was also unfortunate that the few progressive forces of this Parliament were unable to overturn the final result. However, some of us will continue to fight for the democratic right of the citizens to articulate their demands. And this is what I guarantee I’ll personally continue to fight for,” she concluded.