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European Commission - Press release

Successful conference brings European Citizens' Initiatives a step closer

Brussels, 26 January 2012 – More than 400 people today packed into a conference that marks a key stage in final preparations for European Citizens' Initiatives (ECIs). Speakers include European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, responsible for ECIs, Danish Minister for European Affairs Nicolai Wammen, MEPs closely involved with the instrument and senior representatives from Facebook, Google, Twitter and Dailymotion.

The conference, taking place in Brussels, is called 'Warming up for the European Citizens' Initiative'. The aim is not just to bring together key players involved in using the ECI and making it work, but also to mark the official launch of the Commission website used to register requests, and to showcase the free open source software that citizens can use to collect signatures online.

In addition, participants will learn how the procedure will work in practice, how Member States will implement this new tool, and the potentially central role of social media in relation to ECIs. They will also discuss the important follow-up process once an initiative has attracted the necessary support of one million signatories from at least seven Member States.

Vice-President Šefčovič said: "This new right will open a new chapter in the democratic life of the EU. Not only will it provide a direct gateway for citizens to make their voices heard in Brussels, it will also encourage real cross-border debates about EU issues.

"I am also convinced that social media will play an important role in encouraging support for initiatives in the four corners of the EU. So I am delighted that they are so well represented today.

"The overwhelming interest in this conference augurs well for the success of this new tool. I wish the best of luck to those who are gearing up to propose an initiative from the beginning of April."

High officials from Member States' administrations and the Commission, as well as the President of the Economic and Social Committee, Staffan Nilsson, and the President of the Committee of the Regions, Mercedes Bresso, are also participating in the event.

Background

The ECI was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. It will allow 1 million citizens from at least one quarter of EU Member States to invite the European Commission to bring forward proposals for legal acts in areas where the Commission has the power to do so.

The organisers of an ECI, a citizens' committee composed of at least seven EU citizens who are resident in at least seven different Member States, will have one year to collect the necessary statements of support. The number of statements of support has to be certified by the competent authorities in the Member States. The Commission will then have three months to examine the initiative and decide how to act on it.

The Regulation governing European Citizens' Initiatives was adopted on 16 February 2011. However, at the request of Member States who needed time to put mechanisms in place for certifying statements of support, citizens will only be able to launch ECIs as from 1 April 2012.

Link to newly launched ECI website:

http://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/public/welcome?lg=en

Link to ECI Regulation:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:065:0001:0022:EN:PDF

Contacts :

Antonio Gravili (+32 2 295 43 17)

Marilyn Carruthers (+32 2 299 94 51)

ANNEX

Please note that in accordance with the Regulation, European Citizens' Initiatives cannot be launched before 1 April 2012.

How will the European citizens' initiative work?

  • Organisers

    • Initiatives must be organised by a citizens' committee composed of at least 7 EU citizens who are resident in at least 7 different EU countries. Members of the European Parliament cannot be counted among the 7 citizens needed.

  • Minimum number of signatories

    • An initiative must be backed (in the form of "statements of support") by at least 1 million EU citizens from 7 or more EU member countries (the requirement is at least one quarter of all EU member countriescurrently there are 27 EU countries in total).

  • Minimum number of signatories per member country

    • In 7 countries among those where statements of support have been collected, there is a minimum number of statements to be reached (equal to the number of MEPs elected in that country, multiplied by 750). Check these minimum numbers for each member country in Annex I of the Regulation.

  • Minimum age

    • The minimum age required to organise and support an initiative is the voting age for European Parliament elections (currently 18 in every country except Austria, where it is 16).

  • Registration of proposed initiatives

    • Organisers have to ask for the registration of their proposed initiative in one of the EU's official languages in an online register made available by the Commission. The Commission has to answer within two months.

    • The Commission will refuse to register the proposed initiative if:

          • the composition of the citizens' committee does not follow the rules or

          • it is manifestly outside the scope of Commission's powers to submit a proposal for the requested legal act or

          • it is manifestly abusive, frivolous or vexatious or

          • it is manifestly contrary to EU values.

    • After registration, organisers can ask to add translations of their proposed initiative, in other official EU languages, to the register.

  • Collecting statements of support

    • Statements of support can be collected on paper or online. They must comply with the models for the statement of support (see Annex III of the Regulation). These models ask for different data depending on the country that will be verifying the statements.

    • Starting from the date the proposed initiative is registered, the organisers will have 1 year to collect these statements.

  • Collecting online

    • Before starting to collect statements online, organisers must ask the relevant national authority of the EU member country where the data will be stored to certify their online collection system. The authority must reply within 1 month.

    • The Commission will make available open source software that can be used by organisers to collect statements of support online. The Commission has also adopted technical specifications to help organisers build their collection system.

  • Getting statements of support verified and certified

    • Once the organisers have collected the required number of statements, they will submit them for verification and certification to the relevant national authorities in each country.

    • Within 3 months the national authorities should deliver certificates indicating the number of valid statements of support collected. National authorities will use appropriate checks to verify the statements, which can include random sampling.

  • Submission and examination of the citizens' initiative

    • After obtaining the certificates from the national authorities, the organisers submit their initiative to the Commission.

    • The Commission will have 3 months to examine it and decide how to react. In that time, it will meet the organisers at an appropriate level so they can explain the issues raised in their initiative.

    • The organisers will also have the opportunity to present their initiative at a public hearing organised at the European Parliament.

    • In its answer set out in a communication, the Commission will explain its conclusions on the initiative, what action it intends to take, if any, and its reasoning.

  • Transparency about backers/funding

    • Organisers must provide regularly updated information on the sources of support and funding for their initiative.

  • Periodic reviews

    • By 1 April 2015 and every 3 years after that, the Commission will present a report on the application of the Regulation.


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