A reform in European Citizens' Initiatives is deemed necessary as only four citizens’ initiatives managed to collect the required 1 million signatures across Europe, while more than 30 initiatives failed.
Now, future ECIs will be made slightly more accessible and will ease the work of ECI organisers as they will have to prepare for only 2 instead of 13 different sets of data requirements that Member States can choose from.
Member states can also choose to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to support ECIs even where they do not yet have voting rights, as is the case in Austria.
Nevertheless, German MEP Sven Giegold said “no progress has been achieved to increase the impact of a successful ECI.”
His comments come after the Commission and Council said they were not ready to commit themselves to more action when more than 1 million Europeans demand a change with their signature.
Only the European Parliament is about to change its Rules of Procedure in order to give ECIs a full plenary debate. But this change is not dependent on overhauling the ECI regulation.
Giegold said, “As a setback for ECIs, Council won against Parliament and Commission in banning individual online collection systems that NGOs created to collect signatures for ECIs and at the same time contacts to establish a growing European public sphere."
“Larger NGOs will be discouraged from supporting ECIs and continue to use simple petitions instead. The ECI as a symbol for citizens’ participation in EU democracy is weakened. With this deal we run the risk of having even less successful ECIs” Sven Giegold MEP
He said that NGOs such as WeMove.eu had built a growing European public sphere using ECIs, for example, the Stop Glyphosate ECI.
“This was based on an individual, open-source collection system, financed by NGOs, with around €50,000 and certified by Member States for its compliance with the law,” Giegold added.
Under the deal reached, by 2023, all NGOs will have to use a central online collection system provided by the commission. Individual systems will be forbidden.
But all addresses registered under this system have to be deleted soon after the ECI ends, even if they chose to be informed in the future. The deal will be voted in the European Parliament’s Plenary, possibly as soon as this month.
Giegold, who is Parliament’s rapporteur for transparency, accountability and integrity of EU institutions, commented further on the trialogue outcome.
“Limited progress made on cutting red tape for new ECIs is overshadowed by the expropriation of NGOs. NGOs must be able to trust European law that motivated their massive investment in IT tools to collect support for ECIs and contacts to build a European public sphere.”
“ECIs need the support by larger NGOs in order to collect more than one million signatures. Denying NGOs to reach out to ECI supporters who wish to stay in contact is a lost opportunity for stronger European public spaces.”
“Larger NGOs will be discouraged from supporting ECIs and continue to use simple petitions instead. The ECI as a symbol for citizens’ participation in EU democracy is weakened. With this deal we run the risk of having even less successful ECIs.”
However, Giegold said that not everything in the deal on a new ECI regulation is bad.
“Less red tape for future ECIs thanks to harmonised data requirements and limitations to legal risks for organisers are welcome support but cannot shift the balance of the deal. NGOs should now elaborate if they see enough progress in order to accept this deal,” he added.