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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. 

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 needed

Experience on the side of ECI organisers as well as EU officials has revealed significant 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 of the ECI regulation soon, particularly in its 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 is 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 finding partners in other countries to seeking expert advice on campaigning, fundraising, or legal issues. The objective is to foster interaction between potential organisers, citizens and experts on the topic of the ECI. 


Further Information

- Democracy International's position paper on the ECI

- EU-Regulation on the ECI (Nr. 211/ 2011)

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

- Status of ongoing and closed ECIs

- ECI procedure step-by-step


More on the ECI...

ECI Petition handover in Brussels, October 2016
One day ahead of the presentation of the Commission Work Programme for 2017, the organisations Democracy International, Mehr Demokratie and The ECI...
The constitutional committee voting on ECI reform proposals on 28 September 2015
On 28 October 2015 the European Parliament (EP) voted with an overwhelming majority in favour of the Resolution on the European Citizens’ Initiative...
The campaigners meet with MEPs in Strasbourg on 28 October
On 28 October 2015 the European Parliament adopted a report calling for an urgent improvement of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) and...
Rat in Research for Animal testing, Image by Understanding Animal Research, public domain
The European Citizens' Initiative is the world's first transnational tool of participative democracy. But the system needs reform if it is to avoid...
The panel of the first ECI hearing on "Right2Water"
In view of the upcoming review of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) the European Parliament is inviting experts and practitioners to a public...
The panel of the ECI Conference in Brussels on 10 December 2014
The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is a phenomenal tool of transnational direct democracy, allowing citizens to directly influence agenda-...
Dutch ECI campaign - Actress Victoria Koblenko signs our petition pro ECI
 Michael Efler at a press conference The inclusion of the European citizens' initiative in the draft constitution is a great success for all those...
Maroš Šefčovič. Photo by Audiovisual Services of European Commission
European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič has epxressed his strong support for Democracy International's fundraising campaign for an ECI App...

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