The Regulation on the Europan Citizens' Initiative (ECI) will enter into force on 1 April, providing EU citizens with a new tool of participatory democracy, unique worldwide on a transnational scale.
Alain Lamassoure MEP, Co-Rapporteur of the European Parliament on this piece of legislation, welcomes the text: "The real targets of the procedure are the ordinary citizens who are not heard by those who decide in Europe i.e. Erasmus scholarship holders who discover that mutual recognition of diplomas does not work in reality, trans-border workers who are paying taxes twice, 'pioneer' citizens of the European cause, who live, get married, work in a different country than their country of origin and are faced with unbearable practical difficulties in their day-to-day lives. A tremendous suggestion box is open."
"This power to call on the Commission to propose legislation will be equivalent to that of the Parliament and of the Council of Ministers and this has been the Parliament's guiding principle throughout the negotiations that preceded the Regulation's approval", he added.
Georgios Papastamkos MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament responsible for the ECI, said: "The establishment of the European Citizens' Initiative constitutes an innovative participatory instrument of the EU. It certainly raises the expectations for European public opinion, but it can still have an unpredictable impact on the rule-making function of the EU. Τhe ECI contributes to the creation of a European public sphere which is built from the bottom up. It is thanks to the substantial contribution of the EP that the ECI has become more friendly, simple and less bureaucratic for European citizens."
By doing so, the citizens will finally have a means to directly contact the European Institutions, to increase their awareness to the concrete problems that they are faced with - which are sometimes neglected - and to invite them to take initiatives regarding issues that matter to them.
The European Parliament has made sure that the procedure is as simple and citizen-friendly as possible to enable the widest audience to use it.
"This very original tool should contribute to strengthening democracy in the EU decision-making process, especially in this era of Internet and social networks, and we call on the citizens to use it and thereby harness their power in Europe", the MEPs concluded.
The European Citizens' Initiative, how does it work?
From now on, a committee gathering at least seven citizens living in at least seven different Member States will have the possiblity to ask the European Commission to put forward a legislative proposal regarding an issue that is of its competence and that respects the fundamental values of the Union.
The European Commission will examine the admissibility of the Citizens' Intiative and, if the latter receives the green light from the Commission, the organisers will be able to start collecting signatures all over the EU.
Once they gather over one million signatures, coming from citizens living in at least seven different Member States, the Commission will be officially obliged to announce within a period of three months if it decides to respond to it i.e. to table a draft legislation.
Within this three-month period, the European Parliament will oversee that the organisers are entitled to come to publicly present and defend their initiative during a public hearing at the European Parliament.