Public consultation on the European citizens' initiative
The European citizens' initiative and you / General considerations
Do you consider that the European citizens' initiative has so far achieved its objective of fostering the participation of citizens in the democratic life of the EU and bringing the EU closer to the citizens?
In your view, how important are the following considerations when revising the rules for the European citizens' initiative?
a) Signing an initiative should be as simple as possible (statements of support should be collected in a user-friendly way and the personal data requested should be kept to the minimum needed).
b) The rules and procedures for organising an initiative should not be burdensome and should remain proportionate to the nature of the tool (a tool for citizen participation which does not lead to a binding outcome).
c) Citizens' initiatives should be launched only on issues relevant to citizens in a significant number of member states.
d) Citizens' initiatives should foster debate and interactions between like-minded citizens across the EU as well as between themselves and the EU institutions.
e) The rules for giving support to an initiative should allow the use of the best available technology in terms of security and user-friendliness.
Not at all important
f) Other. Please specify: 200 character(s) maximum (19 characters left)
2 questions in the questionaire are impossible to answer: "foster debate and interactions" (d), "security and user-friendliness" (e). I want 1 of the 2, both options are not equal.
Preparatory phase of a citizens' initiative / Citizens' committee
A citizens' initiative must be organised by a citizens' committee of at least seven EU citizens residing in seven different Member States and of the age to vote in European Parliament elections. Before starting to collect statements of support from citizens, organisers need to register their proposed initiative with the Commission.
During the first five years of implementation, several committees raised the following concerns:
- potential issues related to their liability as they are responsible for collecting the statements of support (and therefore for protecting the personal data provided by signatories);
- obstacles, for example to raise funds and manage data protection, especially in view of the fact that they act as individuals (the citizens' committee has no legal personality) and reside in at least seven different countries.
In accordance with the Regulation, the Commission has established a point of contact which provides information and assistance to organisers. Do you consider that the provision of information and assistance to organisers in this phase should be strengthened?
Assistance to organisers in the preparatory phase should be provided by:
- The Commission through its point of contact ('helpdesk')
- Independent expert(s), for instance through an online collaborative platform
- X Other:
Local authorities. If they are uncapable to do so, they should get in touch with the Commission and after being educated get back to citizens and pro-actively help them within a set term. Failing to do so should have consequences and these cases should be publicly known through the Commission's website and investigated.
In your opinion, what would be the best way(s) to limit the liability of organisers?
- X Reduce the amount of personal data collected from signatories.
- Organisers should not be in charge of collecting statements of support (online collection should take place on a single platform, under the responsibility of a public authority and/or statements of support in paper form should be submitted by signatories to a public authority).
- Only collection of statements of support in paper form should be allowed.
- Only online collection of statements of support should be allowed.
- Initiatives should not be organised by citizens' committees, but only by organisations.
- Organisations should be allowed to be part of the citizens' committees.
- The citizens' committee should be required to register as a legal entity in one member state.
- X Other: Please specify:
Do you have any other suggestions for improving this preparatory phase/the citizens' committee?
At any stage citizens should be allowed to leave the committee. If they do not respond to a probe from the European Commission within a month, they are removed. Anyone can add themselves if the existing members confirm within a month that they agree. The number is members is infinite. Membership changes are publicly available (online), updated monthly.
To be registered, the proposed initiative must comply with the conditions set out in Article 4(2) of the Regulation, which require that:
- a citizens’ committee has been formed and the contact persons have been designated;
- the proposed initiative does not manifestly fall outside the framework of the Commission’s powers to submit a proposal for a legal act of the Union for the purpose of implementing the Treaties;
- the initiative is not manifestly abusive, frivolous or vexatious;
- the initiative is not manifestly contrary to the values of the Union as set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union.
Since 2012, 45 initiatives have been registered. 21 requests for registration have been refused, all of them because they manifestly fell outside the framework of the Commission’s powers. As the tool has matured and the Commission's approach has evolved, registration rates have improved. Since the start of the Juncker Commission's mandate in November 2014 only one request for registration had to be rejected.
The Commission has taken a number of measures to improve the registration phase in order to make it more citizen-friendly, by:
- reinforcing the advice and support to organisers in this phase;
- allowing for the partial registration of proposed initiatives in cases where part(s) of the proposed initiative fall outside the Commission's powers (see decisions on the initiatives ‘EU Citizenship for Europeans: United in Diversity in Spite of jus soli and jus sanguinis’, ‘Minority SafePack – one million signatures for diversity in Europe' and 'Let us reduce the wage and economic differences that tear the EU apart!').
The Commission Decisions on the registration of such initiatives clarify the areas in which legal acts of the Union for the purpose of implementing the Treaties can be adopted and set out the understanding on the basis of which statements of support may be collected. Commission Decisions on registration are made available online in the register of citizens' initiatives in order to ensure transparency.
Should the registration phase continue to include an admissibility check to verify that the proposed initiative does not fall outside the Commission’s powers?
When do you think this check should take place?
- X After the collection of all the necessary statements of support (at least one million) together with the assessment of the political opportunity of the proposed initiative.
- After the collection of a certain number of statements of support.
- X Other:
50.000. When the answer is negative, the ECI should be pro-actively passed on to one or more authorities which are asked for a (public) response. By doing so, more citizens get the 'Right of Petition'
In order to redraft their proposed initiative, the organisers should have the possibility to be assisted by:
- Independent expert(s), for instance through an online collaborative platform
- An officer within the Commission with an independent and impartial role for the European citizens' initiative ('hearing officer')
- Other: Local authorities. They are accessible and accountable. Online or EU assistance is distant, slow, not 'in person'. The local authorities in their turn can ask advice from Commission, experts (online or not).
Do you have any other suggestions for improving the registration phase?
No admisability check on the framework of the Commission’s powers will encourage more citizens to start an initiative. All 50.000 signatories can learn about how the subsidiarity between the EU and member states. After member states get the initiative on their plate the EU can observe and demand an answer. If the answer is not positive, at least the ECI instrument worked and gets the attention it needs.
Organisers have 12 months to collect the necessary statements of support from citizens, as of the date of registration of their proposed initiative by the Commission. Signatories can give their support in paper form or online.
In order to collect statements of support online, organisers must build their online collection system and get it certified by a competent authority in the member state where the data collected will be stored before starting to collect statements of support online via this system.
To be certified, the systems must ensure among other things that the signatories' data are securely collected and stored. Certification can be requested by organisers before or after registering their proposed initiative with the Commission. However, the starting date of the collection period is in all cases the date of the registration of the proposed initiative with the Commission, regardless of whether the organisers' system has already been certified or not.
As foreseen in the Regulation on the European citizens' initiative, the Commission has developed open source online collection software which is available free of charge.
Organisers can use the Commission's software or another software of their choice. In addition to the software, organisers have to find hosting servers to put the collection system into operation.
Shortly after the entry into application of the Regulation, the first organisers of initiatives had difficulty finding appropriate and affordable hosting servers for their systems. In view of this obstacle that prevented organisers from starting to collect online, the Commission has exceptionally offered, beyond its obligations under the Regulation, to host organisers' online collection systems on its own servers, free of charge. Organisers using this solution still need to get their systems certified in accordance with the Regulation.
The hosting of online collection systems exceptionally offered by the Commission should be:
- Made permanent and remain optional (organisers could still build their own system and get it certified by the relevant national authority).
- Made permanent and simplified (transformed into an online collection platform readily available for organisers upon registration, without the need for a certification) while still remaining optional.
- Transformed into a single online platform for all initiatives (readily available for organisers upon registration, without the need for a certification), as there would be no real need for other online collection solutions.
- X Stopped – organisers should find their own hosting provider, build their own online collection system and get it certified by the relevant national authority as foreseen in the current Regulation.
Submission to the Commission and follow-up
Transparency and awareness-raising