In the past three years, an estimated six million Europeans have supported European Citizens' Initiatives (ECI) and used their voice to bring important causes directly to the attention of European policy makers. Today the European Commission publishes a Report looking at the application of this new tool since its entry into force on 1 April 2012.
The fact that two Citizens' Initiatives have gone through the full process shows that the Regulation establishing the ECI has been fully implemented. However, the report acknowledges that there is still room to improve the process and identifies a number of possible issues for further discussion with stakeholders and institutions.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "The ECI is one of the building blocks for strengthening trust in the European institutions and for promoting active participation of citizens in EU policy-making. We must look for innovative ways to encourage greater and more effective use of the tool. This is an important instrument, and we must make sure it lives up to its full potential."
Under the rules set out in the Lisbon Treaty, if a Citizens' Initiative collects over one million statements of support (signatures), in an area where the European Commission has competence to propose law, then the Commission must formally discuss the issue and publish a response in the form of a Commission Communication.
The Report shows that, in the past three years, 51 requests to launch an initiative have been received. From these 51 requests, 31 were in fields of Commission competence and have been registered; 3 have so far reached the threshold of one million signatures; 12 reached the end of their collection period without reaching the threshold; 3 are still collecting statements of support; and 10 were withdrawn by the organisers.
Statements of support have been received from citizens in all 28 EU Member States. However, there are situations where some citizens have not been able to support Initiatives due to diverging Member States' requirements. The Commission is involved in constructive discussions with the Member States concerned to address these issues and has adopted measures today to facilitate a resolution.
The creation of online collection systems for signatures has also proved difficult for organisers and in some cases impacted on the time available to collect statements of support. The Commission has offered temporary hosting solutions to organisers and recently commissioned a study on ECI Information and Communication Technology impacts to seek a sustainable solution.
The European Citizens' Initiative was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. The rules and procedures are set out in a Regulation adopted by the European Parliament and Council on 16 February 2011. The Regulation started to apply on 1 April 2012. The Regulation foresees that by 1 April 2015 and every three years thereafter the Commission shall present a report on its application.
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