European Citizens’ Initiatives

30 March 2012 – Sunday marks the launch of European Citizens’ Initiatives. From that day, a million citizens from across Europe can come together on an issue that is important to them, and ask the Commission to do something about it.

Registering initiatives is a key early step in the process. The request must be made by a citizens’ committee made up of at least seven EU citizens who are resident in at least seven different EU Member States.

Once registered, the committee will have 12 months to collect the necessary statements of support from at least seven Member States. The threshold to count as one of those seven Member States is fixed at 750 times the number of MEPs for that Member State. Anyone of voting age for European Parliament elections (currently 18 in all Member States except Austria, where it is 16) can support an initiative.

The number of statements of support has to be certified by the competent authorities in the Member States. The Commission will then have three months to examine the initiative and decide how to act on it. It will meet the organisers so they can explain the issues raised in their initiative in more depth. The organisers will also have the opportunity to present their initiative at a public hearing organised at the European Parliament.

The Commission will then adopt a Communication explaining its conclusions on the initiative, what action it intends to take, if any, and its reasoning.

The European Commission has worked hard to make the process as simple as possible for citizens, while ensuring the necessary safeguards are in place so that initiatives which are manifestly abusive, frivolous, vexatious, contrary to European values or outside the scope of the Commission’s powers are not registered. Measures are also in place to ensure the data of those supporting initiatives is properly protected.

The ECI was introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. It will allow 1 million citizens from at least one quarter of EU Member States to invite the European Commission to bring forward proposals for legal acts in areas where the Commission has the power to do so.

The Regulation governing European Citizens’ Initiatives was adopted on 16 February 2011. However, at the request of Member States who needed time to put mechanisms in place for certifying statements of support, citizens can only launch ECIs from 1 April 2012.

Link to ECI website

Link to ECI Regulation