6 May 2010 - The European citizens’ initiative

The Lisbon Treaty introduced a new form of public participation in European Union policy shaping, called the European Citizens’ Initiative. It formalizes the participatory democracy that completes representative democracy, but it does not replace it. It enables citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States to directly call on the European Commission to bring forward an initiative of interest to them in an area of EU competence.

From 11 November 2009 to 31 January 2010, a public consultation procedure was launched by the Commission’s Green Paper which allowed civil society organisations to express their views on the way the citizens’ initiative should work.

AEDH welcomed this public consultation procedure and used the opportunity to express its own point of view on the issue. AEDH made two preliminary observations:

1. The citizens’ initiative should not be seen as an isolated procedure from other instruments of participatory democracy and, in particular, those mentioned in Article 11. It does not introduce a kind of direct democracy. We share the idea that the citizens’ initiative does not automatically translate into a draft directive and regulation, but it is up to European instruments to give a written and reasoned response to the initiative.

2. The citizens’ initiative must conform to the values outlined in the Treaty concerning the respect of fundamental rights, especially the values described in the preamble and the first articles of the Treaty, in the Charter of Fundamental Rights and in the European Convention of Human Rights. The AEDH’s response to the public consultation is available only in French in our website. Following this public consultation, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a Regulation on the citizens’ initiative on 31 March 2010.

In this proposal, some points do not conform to the AEDH position.

  • Despite the AEDH’s suggestion of “one quarter” as the minimum number of States members that have to participate, the proposal fixes the minimum number of States members at one third. § The proposal sets a threshold around 0.2% as the minimum number of citizens per Member State, which is digressively proportional to the population of each State. AEDH suggested a rate around 0.1% as an appropriate threshold.
  • The proposal sets the minimum age for supporting an initiative as the age at which citizens are entitled to vote in the European Parliament elections. AEDH proposed to fix the minimum age at 16 since it is the age of voting in at least one of the States in the EU.
  • The proposal provides for a time-limit of 12 months for the collection of statements of support. However, a period of one year would be insufficient. That is why AEDH proposed to set the deadline to 18 months.

AEDH welcomes the following points of the proposal:

  • The short time-limit of four months which the Commission has to consider a citizens’ initiative when it is formally submitted.
  • The fact that the Commission may refuse to register proposed citizens’ initiatives that are clearly contrary to the values of the Union (Article 4, paragraph 4).

However, AEDH has reservations about the information and personal data required from the signatories, and particularly regarding the need to provide a national identification number, which in fact would be used beyond its purpose (Annex III).

Download the Commission’s proposal in its English or French version.

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