The ECI is the world’s first and - still today – the only transnational tool of participatory and direct democracy. It allows one million citizens to propose legislation to the Commission and set the agenda of the European Union in the same way as the European Parliament can propose new EU laws. Established in the Lisbon Treaty ten years ago, the ECI came into force in 2012 and has seen its fair share of challenges and setbacks. The tool has been criticized for its user-unfriendliness, highly technical nature, and low political impact. Among the improvements of the new regulation are provisions to allow campaigners to choose their own signature-collection launch date and the simplified signature collection forms. While the decision to ban alternative online collection systems is a disappointment, the Commission has announced the launch of a new public online collection system, which presents an opportunity to improve the digital dimension of the ECI.
Democracy International recognizes the new regulation as a step forward for democracy in Europe. Bruno Kaufmann, board member of Democracy International who has worked on ECI issues for almost three decades, says, “This is definitely a good day for democracy in Europe. From next year, the European Citizens’ Initiative will offer better opportunities for active European citizens to make their voices heard even between elections days. At the same time this is, of course, just one more small step towards a more genuine modern democracy at the transnational level. Many more will need to follow.”
The revision process comes after years of constructive proposals from Democracy International and other civil society organisations for a ECI reform. In the two-year revision process, Democracy International has promoted the Online Public Consultation launched by the European Commission, which resulted in over 5,000 citizen responses, campaigned to increase the role of the European Parliament in the follow-up to successful ECIs, and advocated to maintain a strong digital dimension of the ECI. Democracy International and its closest partners including The ECI Campaign successfully campaigned to introduce plenary debates on successful ECIs in the European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure.
ECI Day, hosted yearly by the European Economic and Social Committee, will take place on April 2ndin Brussels and will highlight the new and improved regulation of the ECI for the first time with Commission representatives including First Vice President Frans Timmermans, Members of European Parliament, civil society organizations and ECI campaigners. The new regulation of the ECI will enter into force on January 1st, 2020 .
Annex: Provisional ECI agreement approved
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