The European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) is intended to promote active citizenship and participatory democracy, giving it the potential to help overcome the EU's democratic deficit. It is also a tool that can unite Europeans around a cause and thus strengthen the sense of European identity.
However, in order to achieve its full potential, it is not enough for the ECI to become a user-friendly instrument, allowing every citizen in the EU to start their own initiative; it must also be accompanied by dialogue and make an appropriate impact.
The European Economic and Social Committee, in its opinion on "The European citizens' initiative" adopted on 14 March, welcomes the proposed reform of the ECI – as announced by FVP Frans Timmermans at the EESC's ECI Day 2017 – as an important step towards making the ECI a real tool for active citizenship.
However, while it is pleased that many of the good recommendations made by itself and other EU institutions have been taken on board, the EESC still sees room for improvement:
The EESC advocates appropriate follow-up measures to successful initiatives. It is particularly important for successful initiatives to be debated in plenary sessions of the European Parliament (EP), to give citizens' initiatives the necessary political dimension.
Dialogue with ECI organisers also needs to be stepped up, both during and after the campaign, following the EESC's example of inviting ECI organisers to debates in its ECI Group, sections and plenary sessions.
The EESC welcomes the possibility of partial registration of ECIs, but insists on clear and transparent rules for the registration phase, which should remain a one-step decision and not a two-step procedure as proposed by the Commission.
The roles of institutional mentor and decision-maker at registration – both in the hands of the Commission at present – should be separated.
On 10 April 2018, the EESC welcomed the ECI organisers and the EU co-legislators (Commission, Parliament and Council) at its annual conference the ECI DAY 2018: Working Together, where the new proposal and recommendations were analysed in further detail.
For more information on the ECI-related activities in the EESC, click here