MEPs back ECI reform

Written by Martin Banks on 21 June 2018 in News
News

MEPs have backed reform of the European citizens’ initiative, an EU flagship policy which has been widely ridiculed and criticised for being ineffective.

Photo credit: Press Association


The European citizens’ initiative (ECI) was billed by the Commission as the most attractive way for citizens to send their ideas and aspirations for change to the Commission and the EU as a whole.

Once an initiative gathers one million signatures, the Commission decides on what follow-up action to take.

However, the initiative has been heavily criticised for being grossly underused by citizens.


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In a vote on Wednesday, reform of the ECI regulation was adopted by Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee.

The main objective of the change is to enhance the effectiveness of the ECI and make it more user-friendly.

Hungarian deputy György Schöpflin, the author of the report, welcomed the outcome, saying, “the new regulations will make this smoother and more effective, and it only remains for the Commission to administer the ECI in a constructive spirit.”

He said, “The ECI is a way for citizens to shape Europe by inviting the Commission to make a legislative proposal. 

“The main objective of the reform of the ECI regulation is to enhance its effectiveness, both in terms of making the tool more user-friendly and in terms of increasing its legitimacy. 

“In order to enhance the trust in the ECI as an instrument of engagement of EU citizens, what the committee would like to see is a presumption that the Commission will submit a legislative act in response to a successful ECI within a year of its publication. Its decision not to submit a specific legislative proposal should be clearly and duly justified.”

An EPP group spokesperson said, “To ensure that the ECI achieves its full potential as a tool to foster debate, Parliament wants to be able to hold plenary debates, with the possibility of adopting a motion for resolution, to assess the actions taken by the Commission. To ensure its credibility, the Parliament is also pushing for increased transparency and accountability as regards support and the financing of the initiatives.”

Elsewhere, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) said that “six years after the introduction of the ECI, with barely any impact on EU legislation, the constructive criticism, is finally beginning to bear fruit” with the review of  “this important instrument of participative democracy.”

EESC President Georges Dassis welcomed the review “as a leap forwards as regards the simplification and reduction of the bureaucratic burden.

“The dialogue between the ECI organisers and the Commission needs to be strengthened. We need genuine follow-up on people's issues and worries.” 

But Greens/EFA group shadow rapporteur Josep Maria Terricabras was less enthusiastic, saying, “Millions of Europeans have used their right to take part in the ECI but their calls have repeatedly been ignored, with the Commission consistently failing to follow up with meaningful legislative proposals. It’s clear that the ECI needs to be changed if it is going to deliver on its promise of bringing democracy closer to the people.”

 

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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