The European Citizens’ Initiative – Participatory Democracy in the European Union
Proceedings of the 6th Edition of the International Conference on European Integration - Realities and Perspectives, p. 19, 2011
8 Pages Posted: 18 Jan 2012
Date Written: 2011
A new democratic tool, the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), starting with April 2012, will allow one million European Union (EU) citizens to ask the European Commission to propose EU legislation. The ECI could thus create a new space inside the EU policy-making machine for ordinary EU citizens.
The purpose of the paper is to analyse the early implementation of the Treaty of Lisbon provisions concerning citizens’ initiative.
At the level of the European Union, member states in their fundamental laws set up the democratic initiative of the people. The following Member States have citizens’ initiatives at national level: Austria, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and The Netherlands. These initiatives differ considerably in scope and generally operate according to different procedures. Because at EU level, there is no experience to build upon this, we will analyze the national citizens’ initiative and the problems which occurred in practice. So, the citizens’ initiative must accomplish few conditions which we intend to discover and unveil in a comparative study with the national initiative.
This new right is a significant step forward in the democratic life of the Union. It provides a unique opportunity to bring the Union closer to the citizens and to foster greater cross-border debate about EU policy issues, by bringing citizens from a range of countries together in supporting one specific issue. The Green Paper elaborated on the ECI brings up few legal, administrative and practical issues. In the second part of our paper we will study these issues and we will try to find out how the European Commission administered them.
On February 16th, finally, the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament (EP) gave the green light to the European Citizens’ Initiative, one of the most significant innovations in the Lisbon Treaty. After the regulation entered into force, member states will have a year to adjust their national regulations, so the first European collection of signatures can begin in the spring of 2012 at the earliest.
This new instrument will make a very positive contribution not only to European democracy but also to EU policy making. And for that purpose this tool has to be user friendly – simple, straightforward, understandable and most of all accessible. Having the new Regulation concerning ECI we will determine which are the procedures and the conditions to be followed for ensuring the treaty implementation and how it managed to solve the issues raised by the Green Paper.
The Lisbon Treaty reformed the EU and set up a larger basis which triggers new priorities for a closer EU. This new instrument will bridge the gap between EU institutions and citizens and will offer cross-border collaboration. The EU has to give serious consideration to the demands made by millions of citizens, so as to teach everyone that EU is us. To become a stronger community in a globalized era, the EU needs the human touch and this is exactly the spirit of the last EU treaty.
Keywords: common interests, active citizenship, European democracy on-line, European Union values
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