The ECI (European citizens’ initiative) mechanism was created in 2012 to make it possible for EU citizens to take part in policy-making. What does it take to start an initiative?
Written by Lea Gormsen // 19.11.2021
The European Citizen’s Initiative – the mechanism
The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is a mechanism that was created to make it possible for citizens to get involved in European Union policy-making. Any citizen in the EU can start an initiative for a cause they want to change – for example improving policies fighting climate change or poverty. The citizens also have to reach out to at least 7 other citizens in the EU from at least 7 different member states to start the initiative. For an initiative to be successful, the organizers need to collect 1 million valid signatures from EU citizens of at least 7 different EU countries.
They also need to express their demands and have valid arguments answering questions like: “Why does this have to change?”, “What do they want to change?”, “How would they like the commission to help change this?”.
When the organisers have agreed on their arguments and following demands they send it to the European Commission. The Commission registers the initiative and makes it available for people to sign it. If the initiative collects 1 million or more signatures the European Commission needs to consider the claims and present an answer. In the best case scenario, the Commission will propose a law considering the claims of the initiative and send it to the Parliament. In this way the general citizen can make a big impact!
The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) was introduced through the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union. The ECI officially took off on the 1st of June 2012 when the elements of Regulation 211/2011 were ready. The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) published a report discussing this new European initiative. IDEA points out that the ECI is a form of participatory democracy, allowing citizens to collectively petition for change. They also mention the fact that the ECI was first mentioned in an unratified European Constitution from 2003 and has been in development for almost 10 years.
The ECI started being active in 2012. By now, 85 initiatives have been registered. 11 of them are active, but only 6 have been successful. A few others are still being verified. Furthermore, the Commission currently has 110 new requests for initiatives. The successful initiatives are listed below, and you can read about them on Our Only Home’s website (except for number five).
How to start the European Citizens’ Initiative?
The EU has published 6 step plan for starting your own initiative, and it looks like this:
- Get started: In the first phase it is crucial to ask yourself some important questions:
Is EU legislation the best way to achieve your goals?
How will you find the seven other people from 7 different countries to team up with?
How will you organise the campaign?
- Get your initiative registered: Before you can start collecting signatures you will have to do two things
Create an organiser account
Provide a description of your initiative in one of the official EU languages. The Commission does not have to register all initiatives. The initiatives have to meet certain criteria for them to register it. You will get an answer in 2 to 4 months.
- Signature Collection: Now you need to start collecting your one million signatures either on paper or online. When you kick-off your collection you have 12 months to get the one million signatures.
- Verification: If you collect the needed signatures in time, you will have to group them by nationality and send them for verification to the right authorities. You have three months to do so, and the authorities have three months to verify your signatures.
- Submitting: When you receive the last certificate from the national authorities, you then have 3 months to submit your initiative to the Commission. You submit your initiative with the support and funding you’ve received for the initiative.
- Examination and answer: Now the Commission will start examining your initiative. Within the first month you will meet representatives from the Commission and explain your case. Within 3 months you have the opportunity to represent the initiative in a public hearing at the European Parliament. Within 6 months the Commission will get back to you with a writing explaining which action they will or will not take regarding your initiative.
It has never been easier to change the world ;-). If you would like more information, you can read about the ongoing European Citizens’ Initiatives on our website.