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Right of initiative

So that it can play its role as guardian of the Treaties and defender of the general interest the Commission has been given a right of initiative which empowers and requires it to make proposals on the matters contained in the Treaty, either because the Treaty explicitly provides for it or because the Commission considers it necessary.

This power of initiative exclusively concerns Community matters, the principle being that the Council takes decisions only "on a proposal from the Commission", so that there is a coherent framework for all initiatives.

The Council and the European Parliament may also ask the Commission to put forward a proposal if they consider it necessary.

The right of initiative is regarded as a basic element in the institutional balance of the European Union.

The Treaty of Amsterdam has extended the Commission's right of initiative to the new policies (health and employment), to matters relating to the free movement of persons, and to the third pillar.

According to the Lisbon Treaty, after a five year transition period, the 'third pillar' in the field of justice and home affairs will disappear entirely, with the common policies in this area being integrated in the first pillar. The Commission shares the right of initiative in some aspects of justice and interior affairs with one quarter of the Member States.

The treaty of Lisbon introduces a right of initiative for EU citizens stepping up their participation in the EU decision-making process. It enables them, through the signature of at least one million signatures from a significant number of Member States to put proposals to the Commission.

In certain cases, initiatives from Member States remain possible. They are allowed to refer issues to the European Council, should they feel that their vital national interests are at stake.

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