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European Citizens´ Initiative Forum

To all potential organisers out there: Go for it, because it's really worth it and you can learn a lot!

Updated on: 22/09/2022

Francesco is one of the organisers of the European citizens’ initiative Civil Servants Exchange Program. In this interview for the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum, he talks about the creation of the idea, the motivation of the team behind it and the challenges and rewards of running a pan-European campaign to promote it.

We are a group of young people, ex-students, alumnae of the College of Europe in Bruges. We created this Civil Servant Exchange Program with the tool of citizens' initiative in order to give the possibility to see the servants in public administrations on a national level to go abroad and experience something like an Erasmus for them, so exchange between cities, between countries, between Member States.

First of all, we are all young and we all have been in an experience like Erasmus either inside the European Union or even outside, so we know the value of exchanging people across countries.

We know that the experience of Erasmus has been really a game changer inside the European Union for many students, but we don't want to limit this experience only to students. We want to enlarge it  also to people who work, people who have families, people who are already working in the national governments, in the city administration, in the provinces, in the regions all across European Union.

Civil Servant ECI Organiser

I am putting myself in the shoes of a civil servant, a person who's maybe 50 — something years old, working, let's say at the post office in a very little village in northern Italy. I imagine that such a person would be interested in going abroad in another country doing something similar, for example working in a same post office but in France and learning in the same position how the job is done in France in this other administration. This would allow the employee to learn another language, maybe French or English, learn the best practices of this other administration and come back home after a few months with an enriched background, trying to explain to his colleagues what was the experience like and also with the enhanced possibility for his own career, maybe the possibility to get a promotion and to get a better position in his own job of origin. So this is also in a nutshell what we all stand for.

We are young, but we all have a dream of working for public administrations either inside the European institutions or for our Member States, so it's easy for us to put ourselves in the shoes of people who work for public administrations. This tool of the European Citizens' Initiative was essential for us because we are all Europeans and we strongly believe that the tools that the European democracy is providing us can be used effectively.

And why a citizens' initiative in particular? It was kind of a coincidence that in that time  we were studying at the College of Europe exactly how the Citizens' Initiative works. The idea was to  try out this tool that the European democracy is giving us to see first of all if it's really an initiative of the citizens. We are just citizens, we are just students, we are, you can say, nobody. We want to try if this tool can also work for us and this is why we decided to go for it. This is why we decided to go and try, just try, what it would be like.

This was for us a way first of all to learn something, learn how the system works, how democracy works, how ideas can become reality if channelled through the right ways.

This was very motivating because of course you see the challenges, but you also see the opportunity, and the learning opportunity is really great. Most importantly, we see that reaching one million signatures of course would be a great opportunity for us, but what's most valuable is the opportunity to share the idea, the opportunity to talk about this idea and we see the results already.

When we started, we immediately identified the key players that we would like to be in contact with, and of course they are they include national administrations, national unions of employees and many different other organizations based in Brussels and in the Member States. Of course, the first goal was trying to contact them and trying to convince them to join our campaign, but we soon learned that this process was a bit difficult let's say, because they didn't know us, we didn't really have a name yet, we were not established. What we decided  first was to launch a social media campaign, trying to mobilize people on the web, starting with our friends, starting with our families of course, and trying to connect at least a critical mass of people in order then to enlarge and say: "Look, we are collecting signatures, we already have several hundred we want to arrive to 1 million, please endorse us because this can be effective".

In practice the problem, also one of the difficulties, was that we are now not students anymore we are working and of course each of us is very busy with their own work, so it becomes also difficult to dedicate time and effort and energies to the Initiative. Our Initiative doesn't receive any funding. The only people involved is just us, nine young people, and now we are working. We understand that we have limits, we understand that we can share our spare time for the Initiative but we also understand that it's very difficult to scale up and to really get our name everywhere.

Our idea is already being applied in many different ways and this is great! We see already Member States of the European Union discussing this—having an Erasmus for civil servants—this is already something that is happening. Some ministers, some employees inside the national administrations already are considering it. This means that the ball is turning, spinning, this means that maybe this idea could be shared even by other public authorities.

The most important for us is to share the idea and to keep on bringing the discussion forward.

I would recommend to all the organizers or potential organizers out there to just go for it, to try this tool, to get a team together and go for it  It's difficult, it's challenging, it can be seen as very, very difficult to realize, but at the  end you learn so much and you can discover so much and you can also, if you are successful, see your idea become reality. I would recommend it to everyone—young people, experienced people, everyone and not only people based in Brussels. The essential is for everyone all around the European Union to share ideas and try to get it done, because even if you don't make it, even if you struggle along the way, but still, you can still learn a lot, you can share your idea and your idea might actually become a reality in another way that you don't expect. You are just contributing to public debate which is also great, so go for it, because it's worth it!


Watch the video interview with Francesco: here 




Find more articles about young people and the European Citizens’ Initiative:

Make it Known, Make it Fun, Show Them the Impact!

The student initiative which made it to the Green Deal: “Battles that are worth fighting for are almost never won with money”

‘ECI Model’: How Students Learn to Become Active European Citizens in Practice

Young Italians Test the European Citizens Initiative as a Tool to Mobilise for the Climate

Sinead O'Keeffe, “Voters Without Borders”: The European Citizens’ Initiative tool is the best tool for young people to get directly get involved in EU policymaking

Engaging Higher Education Students with the European Citizens’ Initiative

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on the ECI Forum reflect solely the point of view of their authors and can in no way be taken to reflect the position of the European Commission or of the European Union.
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