Giving a strong voice to the citizens by a renewed European Citizens’ Initiative

Resolution submitted by: Political Commission 1 – Institutions and Governance.
Adopted by the Federal Committee in Zürich on 25 October 2015.
Amended and re-adopted by the online Federal Committee (FC Home) on 25 October 2020.
Amended and re-adopted by the Federal Committee in Malta on 19 March 2023.

JEF Europe,

  • Highlighting that decisions are increasingly taken at EU level while the public opinion and will formation still almost exclusively takes place in the arenas of 27 member states;
  • Concerned that many citizens do not feel sufficiently represented by the political institutions of the EU;
  • Convinced that deeper integration in the EU requires political debates across national borders as basis for a political union;
  • Emphasising that the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), as the first transnational instrument of participatory democracy worldwide, aims at stirring political debates across national borders and involving citizens in the political agenda setting at EU level;
  • Considering that other instruments like the right to complain to the European Ombudsman, aiming particularly to defend individual interests towards the EU institutions, and the right to petition to the European Parliament, while being a useful tool to express political concerns, do not aim at stirring transnational political debates (art. 24 para. 2 and 3 Treaty on the Functioning of the EU);
  • Convinced that the ECI is a strong incentive to establish transnational networks that might develop into genuine European political parties or European civil society groups;
  • Indicating that according to art. 11 para. 4 Treaty on EU (TEU) „not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the European Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties“;
  • Regretting that to date only seven ECI fulfilled the requirements, set up by the current ECI regulation (Nr. 211/2011), to be submitted to the Commission;
  • Regretting that the success of an ECI is mostly determined by sponsors and lobby groups of significant size and financial powers;
  • Convinced that the ECI regulation needs an in-depth revision to remove current legal, bureaucratic and technical hurdles that may discourage citizens from using the ECI;
  • Hoping for a more proactive use of the ECI in terms of promoting the European Integration;
  • Considering that after Brexit the European Union’s population has decreased;

Calls upon the EU legislator to exhaust the margin provided by art. 11 para. 4 TEU to increase the democratic potential of the ECI, notably to:

  1. Clarify the vague provision that an ECI is inadmissible if it “manifestly falls 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 Treaties” (art. 4 para. 2 lit. (b) of the ECI regulation) EU policy fields where the ECI is applicable;
  1. Remove bureaucratic hurdles, currently caused by 27 different national data requirements and national procedures to verify signatures, by uniform data requirements and a central authority for signature verification;
  1. Remove technical and financial burdens, currently caused by the requirements for the online collection of signatures, by providing an
    online platform, allowing online collection of signatures and fundraising (website and hosting capacities) for registered ECI, that can be linked with individual campaign websites;
  1. Exclude individual legal liability of ECI organisers by offering an EU legal personality for the ECI citizens’ committee, in order to spare them to choose from different legal personalities according to 27 national corporate law systems;
  1. Lower the voting age for the right to support an ECI to the age of 16 in all Member States;
  1. Replace different national provisions, that link the right to support an ECI either to the nationality or the place of residence, by common rules ensuring that all EU citizens are entitled to participate in any ECI regardless where they live;
  1. Lower the required number of signatures needed for an ECI;
  1. Extend the collection period to at least 18 months and allow ECI organisers to choose the starting date of the collection period within a time frame of 6 months, after the registration of the ECI by the
    Commission, as the current period of 12 months, starting with the registration of the ECI, is too short, notably for campaigns on new and complex topics;
  1. Stipulate to hold a public hearing in the plenary of the European Parliament with stakeholders and other experts, within a period of 6
    months after the submission of a successful ECI to the Commission, to evaluate the regarding ECI and the preliminary opinion of the Commission thereto;
  1. Establish official ECI support centres to provide ECI organisers with the following services:a. Legal advice regarding EU policy fields were the ECI is applicable,
    b. Technical advice regarding the online and offline collection of signatures and the verification of signatures,
    c. Translation service regarding all documents that are required to conduct an ECI; d. Online platform for collection of signatures and fundraising (as described above);
  1. Ensure that ECI support centres are independent from the Commission to avoid a double role of the latter as adviser and addressee of the ECI;
  1. Once a successful ECI has been submitted, it will be subjected to administrative checks by the Commission. In a second step, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will have the responsibility of determining the constitutional admissibility of the successful ECI. Upon the successful completion of these two steps, the European Commission will be obliged to initiate a legislative procedure based on the submitted ECI;
  1. Requests Member States, which have a national portal for the collection of signatures to national-level Citizens’ Initiatives, to integrate signature collection for European Citizens’ Initiatives on the same platform, in addition to a distinct European-wide platform;
  1. Calls upon the EU and all Member States to increase public awareness across the EU by promoting the ECI as an official EU instrument of participatory democracy.