9 The European Citizens' Initiative |
||Politically important |
|Committee's decision||Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested
|Document details||Commission Report on the application of Regulation (EU) No. 211/2011 on the citizens' initiative
(36780), 7737/15, COM(15) 145
Summary and Committee's conclusions
9.1 The European Citizens' Initiative was introduced by the Lisbon
Treaty to encourage greater democratic involvement of EU citizens
in the legislative activities of the EU. It allows one million
EU citizens from at least one quarter of the Member States to
call on the Commission to propose legislation on any matter for
which it has the power to act. The right to propose a European
Citizens' Initiative is enshrined in the EU Treaties. The rules
and procedures for doing so are set out in a Regulation adopted
in 2011 ("the 2011 Regulation"). To qualify as a European
Citizens' Initiative, the initiative must be formally registered
with the Commission. Since 1 April 2012, when the 2011 Regulation
took effect, the Commission has registered 31 European Citizens'
Initiatives and rejected a further 20 on the grounds that they
failed to meet the criteria for registration.
9.2 The report published by the Commission provides
its first assessment of the application of the 2011 Regulation.
The Commission notes that the European Citizens' Initiative is
now fully operational across the EU, identifies a number of challenges,
accepts that there is scope for improvement, but concludes that
it is "still too early to assess the long-term impacts of
the European Citizens' Initiative on the EU institutional and
legislative process".[ 104]
9.3 The Minister for Constitutional Reform (John
Penrose) notes that the Commission report does not propose any
changes to the 2011 Regulation and concludes that there are no
legal, financial or policy implications for the UK.
9.4 It seems clear that there are problems with
the operation of the European Citizens' Initiative. A significant
proportion of proposed Initiatives are not registered by the Commission,
suggesting a mismatch between citizens' perceptions of the purpose
of European Citizens' Initiatives and their scope as set out in
the EU Treaties and the 2011 Regulation. Only three of the 31
European Citizens' Initiatives registered with the Commission
since April 2012 have obtained more than one million signatures
and met all the requirements of the 2011 Regulation. Citizens
appear to be losing faith in the power of European Citizens' Initiatives
to influence and inform EU decision making. Since their launch,
there has been a marked decline in the number registered with
the Commission each year.
9.5 The Commission report highlights "challenges"
and says that it has "noted with interest" the findings
and recommendations made in a detailed study on European Citizens'
Initiatives commissioned by the European Parliament, as well as
the guidelines proposed by the European Ombudsman following an
own-initiative inquiry on the operation of European Citizens'
Initiatives. Few of the changes proposed in the study and inquiry
to improve the operation of the European Citizens' Initiative
and to make it less costly and burdensome for participants are
reflected in the Commission report. We highlight, in particular,
the scope and purpose of European Citizens' Initiatives to establish
whether they are primarily an "agenda setting" tool,
a tool for implementing specific legislation within the EU's existing
competences, or a means of proposing wider changes to the EU Treaties;
robust, consistent and comprehensible reasons for refusing to
register a proposed European Citizens' Initiative we draw
attention to the complex legal reasons given by the Commission
for rejecting a proposed Initiative entitled "STOP TTIP",
currently the subject of a legal challenge before the General
free translation services for the organisers of European Citizens'
and standardise the statement of support forms and ensure that
all EU citizens, including those resident in another Member State,
are able to sign European Citizens' Initiatives;
that procedures are inclusive and transparent and that public
hearings at the European Parliament involve a broad range of stakeholders
as well as both parts of the EU legislature (Council and European
full transparency of funding for European Citizens' Initiatives.
9.6 It is disappointing that the Minister's Explanatory
Memorandum does not address any of the challenges identified in
the Commission report or offer any view either on the value of
the European Citizens' Initiative as a tool for greater democratic
involvement of EU citizens in the activities of the EU, or on
the practical obstacles which may be impeding participation and
how to overcome them. We ask the Minister for the Government's
view on the recommendations we have highlighted above and, more
broadly, whether he agrees with the European Ombudsman that some
provisions of the 2011 Regulation "clearly have placed administrative
and bureaucratic hurdles in the way of citizens, every one of
whom has, according to the Treaty, the right to participate
in the democratic life of the Union".[ 106]
9.7 We also ask the Minister whether he considers
that European Citizens' Initiatives have made a contribution to
strengthening the democratic legitimacy of the EU. What conclusions
does he draw from the reduction in the number of European Citizens'
Initiatives since their high-water mark in 2012, and from the
number of legal proceedings brought so far (six to date) to challenge
the Commission's refusal to register proposed Initiatives? In
light of the Commission's refusal to register the proposed "STOP
TTIP" Initiative, would the Government support an amendment
to the 2011 Regulation to make clear that EU citizens may ask
the Commission not to act, or to prevent it doing something within
its existing powers?
9.8 Finally, given the possibility that some UK
nationals resident in another Member State may be unable to participate
in a European Citizens' Initiative, we ask whether the Government
will consider including this category within its own procedures
for verification of statements of support.
9.9 Pending the Minister's reply, the Commission
report remains under scrutiny.
details of the documents:
Commission Report on the application of Regulation (EU) No.
211/2011 on the citizens' initiative: (36780), 7737/15, COM(15)
9.10 Before being launched across the EU, a European
Citizens' Initiative ("ECI") must first be registered
on a central website managed by the Commission. The website also
lists initiatives which have been proposed but which the Commission
considers do not quality for registration.[ 107]
An online Guide describes how to launch and sign up to a European
Citizens' Initiative.[ 108]
The main steps are:
formation of a "citizens' committee" composed of at
least seven EU citizens of voting age living in at least seven
different Member States these are the ECI organisers;
of the proposed ECI, following an initial check by the Commission
that the registration criteria have been met;
collection of paper and/or online statements of support by the
organisers, to be concluded within one year of the date of registration
if collected electronically, the online collection system
must be "certified" by the Member State in which the
data are to be stored to ensure that it is secure and that the
technical requirements of the 2011 Regulation are met;
and certification of the statements of support by the competent
submission of the ECI to the Commission, provided it has the support
of at least one million eligible signatories from at least seven
Member States, and that it meets the minimum numerical threshold[ 109]
specified for each Member State in the 2011 Regulation (for example,
74,250 signatories in Germany, 54,000 in France, Italy and the
UK, 3,750 in Malta); and
of the Initiative by the Commission and publication of a Communication
setting out what action (if any) it proposes to take, following
a meeting with the organisers and a public hearing at the European
Citizens' Initiatives cover a wide range of policy areas. A Table
setting out those that have been registered since 1 April 2012
and their current status (Annex 1), as well as a list of those
refused registration by the Commission (Annex 2), can be found
at the end of this chapter.
The Commission Report
9.12 The Commission describes European Citizens'
Initiatives as "one of the major innovations introduced by
the Lisbon Treaty". It says that they have:
pan-European debates and enabled like-minded people to forge links
across the EU;
a means for citizens to connect directly with EU institutions
and become more closely involved in agenda-setting at EU level;
towards the aim of further strengthening the democratic legitimacy
of the EU.[ 110]
9.13 The report first considers the state of play,
focussing on the number of requests for an initiative to be registered
as a European Citizens' Initiative. It then reviews the implementation
of the procedures set out in the 2011 Regulation, highlights a
number of "challenges" and areas for improvement, and
makes some concluding observations about the impact of the European
STATE OF PLAY
9.14 The Commission notes that an estimated six million
statements of support have already been collected for European
Citizens' Initiatives since April 2012. A more detailed breakdown
Commission has received 51 requests to register a proposed European
· 31 ECIs
were registered, broken down by year 16 in 2012, nine
in 2013, five in 2014 and one so far in 2015; and
· 20 proposed
ECIs were not registered by the Commission on the grounds that
they failed to meet the registration criteria.
9.15 Of the 31 registered European Citizens' Initiatives,
only three have so far met the threshold required for formal consideration
by the Commission with a view to further action at EU level. 12
failed to meet the threshold, three were closed by the organisers,
10 were withdrawn during the 12-month period for collecting signatures,
and three remain open and are in the process of collecting signatures.
The organisers of six Initiatives which were refused registration
by the Commission are bringing legal proceedings before the General
Court (the EU's court of first instance); a further case has been
brought by the organisers of the "One of Us" Initiative
although this Initiative met the requirements for registration
and formal consideration by the Commission, the legal action brought
by the organisers seeks to challenge the reasons given by Commission
for taking no further action to implement it. All of these cases
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 2011 REGULATION
9.16 The report deals briefly with each stage of
the process for organising and participating in a European Citizens'
Initiative. The requirements for registration of an ECI are set
out in Article 4 of the 2011 Regulation. Apart from meeting a
number of procedural conditions, this Article requires the Commission
to refuse registration if a proposed ECI is:
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
abusive, frivolous or vexatious"; or
contrary to the values of the Union as set out in Article 2 TEU".[ 111]
9.17 The Commission indicates that all 20 of the
proposed ECIs which it refused to register foundered on the grounds
that they manifestly exceeded the Commission's powers to act under
the EU Treaties.
COLLECTION OF SIGNATURES OF SUPPORT
9.18 The Commission notes that implementation of
the requirement for verification and certification of signatories
varies between Member States and can, in some circumstances, prevent
or deter citizens from being able to support a European Citizens'
Initiative. For example: UK authorities verify statements of support
made by EU citizens resident in the UK, but not by UK citizens
resident elsewhere in the EU or outside the EU; some Member States
require signatories to provide a substantial amount of personal
data which may have a deterrent effect. The Commission suggests
that there is scope to simplify requirements to ensure that EU
citizens of voting age are able, in practice, to support a European
Citizens' Initiative. It also provides information on the number
of translations of European Citizens' Initiatives, once registered,
to make them more accessible to all EU citizens, noting that on
average, ECIs have been translated into 11 languages (with four
translated into all the official languages of the EU).
9.19 The report describes the requirements for certification
of online data collection systems by a competent Member State
authority before the organisers of a European Citizens' Initiative
are allowed to collect online statements of support. It notes
that Member States are reluctant to certify systems prior to registration
by the Commission, in case registration is refused. Certification
after registration, however, reduces the time available for the
collection of online signatures. The Commission has produced open
source Online Collection Software and offered to host organisers'
online collection systems on its own servers, free of charge,
in order to overcome obstacles encountered when the first European
Citizens' Initiatives were launched.
VERIFICATION OF STATEMENTS OF SUPPORT
9.20 All of the designated competent authorities
of Member States have been involved in verifying the statements
of support for one or more of the three European Citizens' Initiatives
which reached the threshold for examination by the Commission
"Right2Water", "One of us" and "Stop
vivisection". Overall, 90% of the statements of support for
these Initiatives were found to be valid. The Commission has found
no significant discrepancies between the results obtained by means
of random sampling or by individual verification of each statement
EXAMINATION BY THE COMMISSION
9.21 The first Initiative examined by the Commission,
"Right2Water", called for "legislation implementing
the human right to water and sanitation as recognised by the United
Nations and promoting the provision of water and sanitation as
essential public services for all". The second, "One
of us", sought an end to EU financing of "activities
which pre-suppose the destruction of human embryos, in particular
in the areas of research, development aid and public health".[ 112]
In both cases, the organisers of each ECI were invited to a meeting
with the Commission and to a public hearing at the European Parliament.
9.22 The Commission published a positive response
to the "Right2Water" Initiative, setting out the actions
it proposed to take to support access to safe drinking water and
sanitation within Europe and at a global level.[ 113]
By contrast, it considered that the issues raised in the "One
of us" Initiative were adequately addressed by the EU's existing
legislative framework and proposed no further action.[ 114]
The Commission's response to the third ECI, "Stop vivisection",
was published after the Commission report (on 15 June).[ 115]
9.23 "One of us" attracted the most signatories
(more than 1.7 million), followed by "Right2Water" (around
1.66 million) and "Stop vivisection" (nearly 1.2 million).
None of these Initiatives attracted sufficient support to meet
the minimum threshold of 54,000 signatories required for the UK.
In each case, the organisers have focussed their efforts on a
lead Member State (Germany for "Right2Water" and Italy
for "One of us" and "Stop vivisection") to
reach their target of one million signatures, whilst also ensuring
that the minimum threshold for the number of signatories has been
met in at least seven Member States. The Commission notes that
campaigning with equal intensity in all Member States presents
a particular challenge for the organisers of European Citizens'
9.24 All sources of funding for a European Citizens'
Initiative which exceed ?500 per year and per sponsor must be
disclosed. Of the 31 Initiatives successfully registered with
the Commission, 14 received no funding, nine received less than
10,000 and eight including the three Initiatives
which reached the final stage of examination by the Commission
exceeded 10,000.[ 116]
POINT OF CONTACT
9.25 The Commission has established a contact point
in its Europe Direct Contact Centre to provide information and
assistance relating to European Citizens' Initiatives.
THE COMMISSION'S ASSESSMENT
9.26 The Commission notes that the necessary procedures
and mechanisms are now in place to make European Citizens' Initiatives
operational across the EU, but recognises that "there is
still room to improve" and highlights the following challenges:
reported by organisers in operating as an informal citizens' committee,
without legal personality, and risks linked to the management
of funds and personal data;
encountered in seeking to register a European Citizens' Initiative,
with a large proportion being refused on the grounds that they
are manifestly outside the scope of the Commission's competences;
practices concerning the conditions to be fulfilled and personal
data to be provided by signatories in different Member States
which make European Citizens' Initiatives less accessible for
some EU citizens;
complexities involved in establishing an online collection system,
which may reduce the time available for the collection of signatures,
as well as difficulties in obtaining certification and in using
the software made available by the Commission;
absence of a specific time limit for submitting a successful ECI
to the Commission for examination after the 12-month period allowed
for collecting signatures;
of the accuracy of translations provided by the organisers of
an ECI can be cumbersome;
opportunities for stakeholders representing a range of views to
participate in the public hearings held at the European Parliament;
dialogue and interaction between the organisers and the Commission
throughout the process, including after the Commission has adopted
a Communication indicating what action (if any) it proposes to
THE COMMISSION'S CONCLUSIONS
9.27 At the outset of the report, the Commission
makes clear that it "attaches utmost importance to the European
Citizens' Initiative and is fully committed to making this instrument
work, so that it can fully achieve its potential".[ 117]
It concludes that it is "still too early to assess the long-term
impacts of the European Citizens' Initiative on the EU institutional
and legislative process" but undertakes to continue "monitoring
and discussing" with a view to identifying ways of improving
the instrument.[ 118]
9.28 The Commission notes "with interest"
the findings of a European Parliament study published in 2014,
European Citizens' Initiative First lessons of implementation[ 119],
as well as the conclusions of an inquiry by the European Ombudsman[ 120]
and feedback from events held by the European Economic and Social
Committee. It says that it has commissioned a study to consider
whether online collection processes can be simplified, and adds
that it will continue to host organisers' online collection systems
on its own servers, free of charge, for "as long as needed".
The Commission expects to "engage in more in-depth discussions"
with the Council and the European Parliament, but proposes no
changes to the 2011 Regulation.
The Minister's Explanatory Memorandum of 24 June
9.29 In a brief Explanatory Memorandum, the Minister
says that the Commission report has no legal, financial or policy
implications for the UK "because it does not propose implementing
any reforms to remedy the issues it cites, not does it ask for
input/feedback from Member States". He continues:
"It is the UK Government's policy to engage
openly and cooperatively with our EU partners to improve the Regulation.
The UK Government supports the exploration of any measure to reform
the Regulation that either makes it easier for citizens to engage
with it or for competent authorities to administer it. Each proposal
for reform will be considered on its own merit."
Previous Committee Reports
None, but the following Reports setting out the Commission's
response to the "Right2Water" and "One of us"
Initiatives are relevant: Forty-seventh Report HC 83-xlii (2013-14),
chapter 20 (30 April 2014) and Fifth Report HC 219-v (2014-15),
chapter 9 (2 July 2014).
Annex 1: Table of proposed European
|Title and subject matter
|"Fraternité 2020 Mobility, Progress, Europe" - EU citizenship and mobility
||May 2012 ||Closed November 2013, insufficient support
|"EU Directive on Dairy Cow Welfare" - animal welfare
||May 2012 ||Withdrawn July 2012
|"Let me vote" - EU citizenship and mobility
||May 2012 ||Withdrawn January 2013
|"One of us" - right to life
||May 2012||Closed. One million threshold met.
||Commission proposed no further action.
|"Water and sanitation are a human right! Water is a public good, not a commodity!"
||May 2012 ||Closed. One million threshold met.
||Commission agreed to take further follow-up action.
|"Single Communication Tariff Act"
||May 2012||Withdrawn December 2012
|"Stop vivisection" - animal experiments
||June 2012 ||Closed. One million threshold met.
||Commission response published on 15 June some limited follow-up action proposed.
|"High Quality European Education for All"
||July 2012 ||Closed November 2013, insufficient support.
|"Pour une gestion responsable des déchets, contre les incinérateurs" - waste management
||July 2012 ||Closed November 2013, insufficient support
|"Provision of a central public online collection platform for European Citizens' Initiatives
||August 2012 ||Closed November 2013, insufficient support
|"Suspension of the EU Climate and Energy Package" - climate change
||August 2012 ||Closed November 2013, insufficient support
|"European Initiative for Media Pluralism"
||October 2012 ||Withdrawn August 2013
|"End Ecocide in Europe: A Citizens' Initiative to give the Earth Rights"
||October 2012 ||Withdrawn January 2013
|"Kündiging Personenfreizügigkeit Schweiz" - termination of the EU/Switzerland Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons
||November 2012 ||Withdrawn February 2013
|"30km/h making the streets liveable!" - road safety
||November 2012 ||Closed November 2013, insufficient support
|"Single Communication Tariff Act" - mobile roaming charges
||December 2012 ||Closed December 2013, insufficient support
|"Let me vote" - EU citizenship and mobility
||January 2013 ||Closed January 2015, insufficient support
|"End Ecocide in Europe" - environmental protection
||January 2013 ||Closed January 2014, insufficient support
|"Unconditional Basic Income Exploring a pathway towards emancipatory welfare conditions in the EU"
||January 2013 ||Closed January 2014, insufficient support
|"Teach for Youth Upgrade to Erasmus 2.0" - education and mobility
||June 2013||Withdrawn June 2014, insufficient support.
|"ACT 4 Growth" - female entrepreneurship
||June 2013 ||Closed June 2014, not submitted to the Commission
|"Do not count education spending as part of the deficit!"
||August 2013 ||Closed August 2014, insufficient support
|"European Initiative for Media Pluralism"
||August 2013 ||Closed August 2014, not submitted to the Commission
|"Weed like to talk" - legalisation of cannabis
||November 2013 ||Closed November 2014, not submitted to the Commission
|"European Free Vaping Initiative" - electronic cigarettes
||November 2013 ||Closed November 2014, insufficient support
|"Turn me Off!" - energy efficiency
||February 2014 ||Withdrawn April 2014
|"New deal 4 Europe" public investment and jobs
||March 2014||Withdrawn January 2015
|"MOVEUROPE" European identity and mobility
||March 2014 ||Withdrawn June 2014
|"An end to front companies in order to secure a fairer Europe" transparency in company law
||October 2014||Open for signature until October 2015
|"For a socially fair Europe!" poverty and social exclusion
||December 2014||Open for signature until December 2015
|"On the Wire" privacy
||February 2015||Open for signature until February 2016
Annex 2: List of proposed European Citizens'
Initiatives which have been refused registration
("Recommend singing the European Anthem in Esperanto",
of European citizenship following the secession of a part or region
of an existing EU Member State
de la participación ciudadana en la toma de decisiones
sobre la soberanía colectiva", 2012);
basic income (2012);
power ("My voice against nuclear
of a European investment bank ("Création
d'une Banque publique européenne axée sur le développement
social, écologique et solidaire", 2012)
and the financial crisis ("One million
signatures for 'A Europe of Solidarity'", 2012);
of children and of animals ("Abolición
en Europa de la tauromaquia y la utilización de toros en
fiestas de crueldad y tortura por diversión", 2012);
("Our concern for insufficient help to pet and stray animals
in the European Union", 2013), ("Stop cruelty for animals",
2013) and ("Ethics for animals and kids", 2014);
institutions ("To hold an immediate
EU referendum on public confidence in the competence of European
Government", 2013); ("A new EU legal norm, self-abolition
of the European Parliament", 2014); and ("The supreme
legislative and executive power in the EU must be the EU referendum
as an expression of direct democracy", 2014);
social care ("Right to lifelong care:
Leading a life of dignity and independence is a fundamental right",
and linguistic diversity in Europe ("Minority
SafePack one million signatures for diversity in Europe",
policy ("Cohesion policy for the
equality of the regions and sustainability of regional cultures",
("Ensemble pour une Europe sans prostitution legalisée",
("Enforcing self-determination as a human right in the EU",
Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
("Stop TTIP", 2014);
against poverty ("Vite l'Europe sociale!
Pour un nouveau critère européen contre la pauvreté",
104 See p.15 of the Commission report. Back
105 Commission reply refusing registration. Back
106 See the Ombudsman's Decision, para 33. Back
107 See the Commission website. Back
108 Guide to the European Citizens' Initiative. Back
109 The requirement for a minimum number of signatories per Member
State is intended to ensure that a European Citizens' Initiative
is genuinely representative. Back
110 See p.2 of the Commission report. Back
111 The values set out in Article 2 TEU are "respect for human
dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect
for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to
minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a
society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice,
solidarity and equality between women and men prevail". Back
112 See p.10 of the Commission report. Back
113 The details of the Commission's response are set in a Communication.
114 See the Commission Communication. Back
115 See the Commission Communication on the ECI "Stop vivisection".
116 ?140,000 for "Right2Water", ?159,219 for "One of
us" and ?23,651 for "Stop vivisection". Back
117 See p.2 of the Commission report. Back
118 See p.15 of the Commission report. Back
119 EP study. Back
120 Ombudsman inquiry. Back