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The citizen’s initiative

European citizens have a right of initiative under which they may invite the Commission to submit legislative proposals. This Regulation establishes the rules and principles aimed at implementing such initiatives.

ACT

Regulation (EU) No 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2011 on the citizen’s initiative.

SUMMARY

The citizen’s initiative enables European citizens to invite the Commission to submit a legislative proposal on a special subject. It was introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon and its objective is to strengthen the democratic dimension of the European Union (EU). Citizens now have the opportunity to have their voices heard at European level and to be fully associated with the EU’s decision-making process.

European initiative is a strictly framed right. This Regulation establishes the principles relating to such initiatives. It also sets out the procedure through which citizen’s initiatives are put in place. The procedure has several stages.

Conditions

In order to guarantee its legitimacy and its European character, several conditions are required in order to implement a citizen’s initiative:

  • the initiative must be supported by a minimum of one million European citizens – i.e. citizens holding the nationality of a Member State. Those persons supporting an initiative must complete a statement of support form and are designated as the signatories of the initiative;
  • signatory citizens must come from at least a quarter of the Member States. The objective is to ensure that the initiative reflects the interests of the whole Union and not only that of one Member State or a small group of Member States;
  • the Regulation also establishes a minimum number of signatory citizens from each of the Member States represented. A minimum number is set out for each Member State in Annex I of the Regulation.

In addition, a citizens’ committee is formed for each citizen’s initiative. The committee is composed of seven members from seven different Member States, and representatives liaise with the European institutions throughout the procedure. The committee’s role is to organise and coordinate the citizen’s initiative. The committee is also responsible for encouraging the emergence of European-wide questions and fostering citizens’ reflection on certain issues.

Registration of a proposed citizen’s initiative

Prior to initiating the collection of statements of support for an initiative, the organisers must first register the proposed initiative with the Commission. The proposal shall contain in particular the subject matter and objectives of the initiative.

The Commission then examines whether the initiative is admissible. In particular it checks whether:

  • the support committee has been formed and its members designated;
  • the subject matter of the initiative forms part of the policy areas for which the Commission is authorised to submit draft legislation;
  • the initiative is not frivolous, abusive or vexatious;
  • the initiative is not contrary to the values set out in Article 2 of the TEU.

If these conditions are met, the Commission registers the proposed initiative and the organisers can initiate collection of statements of support.

Collection of statements of support

The organisers are responsible for collection from citizens. The statements of support for the initiative may be collected in writing, by email or online.

The organisers have a period of 12 months as from registration of the proposed initiative to collect all statements of support.

Verification of statements of support

Once collected, the organisers send the statements of support to the authorities of the Member States that are responsible for their verification. The national authorities then deliver a certificate attesting to the number of statements of support from the Member State concerned.

Submission of a citizen’s initiative to the Commission

Once the certificates have been obtained and the conditions met, the organisers may submit the citizen’s initiative to the Commission.

The Commission then receives the organisers to allow them to explain in detail the matters raised by the citizen’s initiative. In addition, the organisers are also entitled to a public hearing at the European Parliament.

The Commission has three months to examine the citizen’s initiative. It then adopts a communication stating:

  • its legal and political conclusions;
  • the reasons why it intends or does not intend to take action;
  • the action that it intends to take, if any.

Protection of personal data and sanctions

Signatory citizens’ personal data may only be used for the purposes of the citizen’s initiative. The data must then be destroyed at the latest one month after submission of the initiative to the Commission.

Furthermore, the Regulation provides for sanctions against the organisers in the event of false declarations or fraudulent use of data.

Context

This Regulation was adopted pursuant to Article 11 of the TEU and Article 24 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU. These articles were introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon. They make it possible for citizens to introduce a citizen’s initiative.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Regulation (EU) No 211/2011

31.3.2011

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OJ L 65, 11.3.2011

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Last updated: 27.05.2011
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