The ‘ECI: From A to Z’, an Erasmus + funded project, has challenged teachers, tutors and students from four different European universities to participate in a role-playing activity entitled ‘ECI Model’. In a friendly and multicultural environment, students have developed their own ECI proposals and got creative and matured solutions to tackle some of the most important challenges posed to the European Union in the present days. Based on a learn-by-doing approach, this activity revealed very promising in terms of promoting democratic participation, developing skills and competences, and building active European citizens.
The Project ‘ECI: From A to Z’, already featured in a previous blog post, has the main aim of familiarising higher education students with the mechanism of the European Citizens' Initiative, and provide them with competences to develop their own ECI proposals and, therefore, becoming active actors in EU policy and decision-making processes.
For several months, around six dozen students from four Universities have participated in introductory sessions on the ECI, which were held online due to the constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Soon after, the students were invited to participate in an Online Course on ECI, which was specially designed by the Project's team of teachers and tutors to capacitate all types of higher education students, regardless of their area of study or specialisation.
Some months later, the team and students met in Vigo (Spain) for the ‘ECI Model’, the role-playing activity that was the peak of the work carried out throughout the year and the result of all the meetings, peer-learning activities and the ECI Online Course. For five days of successive activities, the students put into practice their ideas regarding a European Union-related subject of their preference (all of them with a tight connection to the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda).
Caption: Participants gathered to participate in the 'ECI Model'
During this activity, students worked in groups in order to develop and polish their proposals and fill in the respective request for registration. Eight different proposals were submitted for registration:
- Initiative Number 1: “Ensure Security for Refugee Mobility”: This ECI proposal asked for the adoption of several measures to guarantee safe and well-organised transportation of refugees throughout their travel towards the EU, their reception and settlement in the final destination;
- Initiative Number 2: “New Focus on the Right of Erasure Within the EU”: This citizens’ initiative asked for measures to ensure that everybody has the right of erasure and is aimed at granting protection regarding the online presence and digital signature;
- Initiative Number 3: “Fair Frontex: Push back their uncontrollable competences, not people!”: This proposal asked for a fairer, safer, more transparent and accountable Frontex, namely by reforming the Agency’s governance framework, commitment to human rights, democracy and EU values, enforcing the Agency’s Fundamental Rights Strategy and improving transparency and accountability mechanisms within the Agency;
- Initiative Number 4: “Unpack the Earth”: This Citizens’ Initiative asked for measures to promote the use of biodegradable materials as an alternative to plastic in packaging, by increasing, among other proposals, taxes on plastic packaging production;
- Initiative Number 5: “Greener Clothes - Greener Planet”: This ECI proposal asked for the induction of consumers to buy less clothes while becoming more conscious about their actions when buying different types of items, overall benefitting the planet;
- Initiative Number 6: “We Craft, EU Protect”: This proposal asked for the creation of a transparent EU GI protection system for non-agricultural products, considering the existing differences between products in the context of geographical indications;
- Initiative Number 7: “Humanitarian Aid: You Can Help the Unseen”: This Citizens’ Initiative asked for the redefinition of EU’s tools and actions in the field of aid and assistance provided to vulnerable groups in case of grave humanitarian crisis;
- Initiative Number 8: “Food redistribution: the path to a prosperous society”: This ECI proposal asked for improvement of the European regulatory framework on food waste and redistribution to achieve Sustainable Development target 12.3.
Caption: List of ECI Proposals from 2021 Teams
After the submission of the form, the “European Commission” deliberated in private regarding each ECI proposal and reached decisions regarding the registration of the proposals, all of which were positive. Soon after, the much-awaited European Parliament hearing took place. Ten mock Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) carefully heard the speakers of each group and analysed the proposals, asking questions they found relevant at the end of each presentation.
Caption: Parliament Hearing of proposals
Finally, after having carefully examined all the proposals and considering the presentations as well as the Parliament’s Resolutions, the “European Commission” publicly read its Communications containing the political and legal conclusions on the substance of each proposal, allowing the organisers to give their feedback.
Looking back on this experience, we can gladly state that it has allowed students to develop their skills and competences, to be more engaged in EU policies and, on the personal level, to bond with students from different countries. We are extremely thankful to all the students who have been a part of this journey alongside with the Professors, researchers and tutors of the Project.
Caption: Participants of the Project
Although the first chapter of the project has come to an end, the Project ‘ECI: From A to Z’ still has a long way to go, continuing to ensure the construction of a European Union focused on citizens and their needs, now with a new group of students eager to learn and participate in further ECIs. We can’t wait for the next ‘Model ECI’ to take place in Göttingen (Germany), so stay tuned!
The project “The European Citizens' Initiative: A Tool for Engagement and Active Citizenship”(acronym ECI: From A to Z) is funded by the Erasmus + programme of the European Commission (Agreement Number 2020-I-PT01-KA203-078546),
To learn more about the ECI: From A to Z project, visit us at https://eci-az.eu/; also, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@eciatoz), using the hashtags #ECIfromAtoZ and #EUTakeTheInitiative.
ContributorsDulce Lopes, Eduardo Figueiredo
Dulce Lopes is a Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Coimbra. Worked for the Portuguese Presidency of the Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and the Catholique University of Lille and was Director of Studies in English at the Hague Academy of International Law (2018). She is the coordinator for the Erasmus+ project ECI: From A to Z.
Further references at: https://www.cienciavitae.pt/E013-0BE9-8B08
Eduardo Figueiredo is a Tutor in the Project ECI: From A to Z and an Invited Assistant at the Faculty of Law of the University of Coimbra.
Further references at: https://www.cienciavitae.pt/portal/pt/0A17-3ED6-803B
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