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European Citizens' Initiative

Raised hands in support for the ECI

European Citizens' Initiative

The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is a unique tool of transnational democracy that gives citizens the right to directly participate in setting the legislative agenda of the EU. By collecting one million signatures from at least seven EU Member States, citizens can invite the European Commission to draft legislation on a proposed issue. 

Birth of the ECI

The ECI is the fruit of arduous advocacy and campaign work led by Democracy International together with a coalition of 110 democracy organisations and 41 Members of the European Parliament (see supporting NGOs and supporting MEPs). The concerted efforts began during the Convention on the Future of Europe (2001-2003) and succeeded with the ECI’s inclusion in the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. The ECI became legally effective in April 2012 with the EU regulation 211/2011, and a revision took place which went into effect 1 January 2020 with EU regulation 2019/788 which serves as the updated rules on the ECI.

Story of the European Citizens' Initiative: Read the account of our campaigner Michael Efler from 2003, in which he describes how he successfully lobbied together with Carsten Berg for the adoption of the ECI in the Draft EU Constitution.

ECI reform

Experience on the side of ECI organisers, monitoring by civil society, and reports by the EU institutions have revealed several flaws in the ECI. Lack of clarity in the initiative registration stage, complexity in collecting transnational signatures, and lack of public knowledge of the ECI itself holds it back from realizing its true potential. What's more, there is no guarantee that a successful ECI will have an impact on EU policy. Concerns have been expressed from many quarters across Europe that if there is not a serious improvement in the ECI's political impact, this innovative democracy tool will be obsolete.

A first review of the implementation was prescribed by the regulation in 2015. In the context of this review, the Commission presented in March 2015 a report assessing the shortcomings of the ECI tool. On 28 October 2015 the European Parliament voted for in favour of a reform of the ECI Regulation to improve accessibility, simplify rules, and strengthen the political impact.

In a monumental move for the ECI's reform, EU First Vice President Frans Timmermans announced at ECI Day 2017 that the Commission will begin the revision process of the ECI Regulation the same year. The Commission opened a 12-week online public consultation, where we along with Mehr Demokratie, The ECI Campaign, and the European Citizen Action Service published a joint suggested answers guide, and where over 5,300 citizens and NGOs took part in the Commission's consultation. 

Democracy International and its partners Mehr Demokratie, The ECI Campaign, ECAS and WeMove.EU launched a petition calling on the European Commission to make the ECI reform a strong revision that addresses core issues. In August 2017,  we went to Brussels and handed over 100,137 signatures to Mr. Antoine Colombani, Member of Cabinet of Vice-President Frans Timmermans. The European Commission responded with this letter.

Following the close of the public consultation and our stakeholder meeting with Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans on August 30th, the Commission published its proposal for a revised ECI. Read our response to the Commission's proposal.

Recommendations for a powerful ECI

The review process presents a window of opportunity for improvement. Throughout this process, Democracy International is campaigning for a reform of the ECI regulation to thoroughly improve the participation tool. We have analysed the entire procedure, assessed practical experiences, and developed concrete recommendations to reform the ECI regulation. 

Read our position paper on the European Citizens' Initiative with recommendations to the Commission. 

See a visual overview of the accepted and rejected recommendations. 

ECI Forum

The ECI Forum was introduced with the new regulation of the ECI and serves as an online collaborative platform that offers support to citizens in different stages of organising an ECI. The Forum provides practical information on the ECI and allows citizens to discuss EU policies and potential initaitives. It also helps citizens in the first stages of organising an ECI, from checking the legal feasiblity of a potential initaitive, to finding partners in other Member States, to offering tailor-made advice on campaigning, fundraising, or legal issues. The objective is to foster interaction on the ECI between potential organisers, citizens, and experts. The ECI Forum is run by European Citizens Action Service, Democracy International, and ProMedia as subcontractors under the European Commission. Sign up and register on the ECI Forum page here now!


Further Information

- Updated 2020 EU Regulation on the ECI Nr. 2019/788

- European Commission's ECI Report  (31 March 2015)

- Sign an initiative now

- ECI procedure step-by-step

Democracy International's 2017 position paper on the ECI


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