Tuesday

26th Mar 2019

MEPs push for simpler rules on EU quasi-referendums

  • Recently citizens handed over more than 3 million signatures oopising the TTIP agreement to the Commission (Photo: Eszter Zalan)

MEPs voted Wednesday (28 October) to push for reforming the EU’s participative democracy tool, amid criticism the proposed steps aren’t going far enough.

Three years after its introduction, with the aim of bringing citizens closer to European politics, the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) has so far failed to have practical impact on European policy-making.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

ECI enables 1 million EU citizens (coming from at least seven of the 28 member states) to call on the European Commission to legislate on any issue where the EU executive has competence to propose new rules.

Since its birth in 2012, only four out of the 28 registered ECIs have reached the 1 million signature benchmark, and none has led to new legislation.

Wednesday’s report proposes making the process easier by allowing people to sign initiatives at the age of 16 everywhere, making the online signature collection simpler, allowing to register only a part of an ECI if the entire issue doesn’t fall under the competencies of the Commission, and other practical measures.

But some lawmakers and members of civil society, while commending the effort, voiced criticism.

They say citizens should be able to initiate treaty change and the Commission should automatically be obliged to legislate in case of successful citizens' initiative.

Carsten Berg, a democracy activist monitoring the ECI’s progress fears even a reformed ECI will not have the political impact it was designed to make in the first place.

He recalled that the Commission turns down 40 percent of the initiatives, and the issue is not addressed by the report.

“None of the successful ECIs have resulted in practical result,” reminded Berg, who said the said the report was watered down in the last minute, when MEPs took out a call for the Commission to start preparing a legal act on successful ECIs within 12 months of their acceptance.

Barbara Spinelli, Italian left-wing MEP said this means the Commission will retain “total monopoly” on the process.

“In my view this empties out the context of the ECI,” she said,

Spinelli added, that while ECI was the attempt to “break out of the crisis of democracy”, but is not delivering on that in its current form.

Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann, German social democrat MEP defended dropping the automatic legislation by saying “1 million people cannot force the EU institutions with 500 million citizens on their mind” to legislate.

Hungarian center-right MEP Gyorgy Schopflin, in charge of the EP’s report, recalled that he needed to secure a majority for the text.

Schopflin said it is “a good basis to talk to the Commission”.

He will hold talks with Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans about the possible ways to reform ECI. The EU executive is then expected to come up with a proposal on the reforms early next year.

“The Commission is open to changes,” Schopflin said on Wednesday.

EU democracy tool fails to reach citizens

The European Commission has indicated it is not going to make major changes to the EU's participative democracy tool despite critics saying its complexity has made it almost unworkable.

EU on path towards whistleblower protection

EU lawmakers and member states have struck a political deal on the first-ever EU-wide directive on whistleblower protection - following years of big tax-evasion revelations and the laundering of dirty money in European banks.

Germany's CDU lukewarm on Macron's EU vision

Germany's anointed new leader has echoed France in calling for EU reform to combat populism - but with a stronger role for national governments and with little prospect of sharing German wealth.

Exclusive

Sefcovic campaign videos feature fellow commissioners

Maros Sefcovic, commission vice-president in charge of Energy Union, is running to be president of Slovakia. Now two of his fellow EU commissioners have endorsed him - raising questions about their independence.

News in Brief

  1. European Parliament votes on reform of copyright
  2. New French-German parliament meets for first time
  3. EU parliament reduces polling ahead of elections
  4. UK parliament votes to take control of Brexit process
  5. EU publishes no-deal Brexit contingency plans
  6. EU urges Israel and Gaza to re-establish calm
  7. May admits 'not sufficient support' for third Brexit vote
  8. Orban vows more EU 'information campaigns'

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Latest News

  1. France takes Chinese billions despite EU concerns
  2. Europe before the elections - heading back to the past?
  3. Romania presidency shatters EU line on Jerusalem
  4. The Spitzen process - a coup that was never accepted
  5. Russia and money laundering in Europe
  6. Italy takes China's new Silk Road to the heart of Europe
  7. What EU leaders agreed on climate - and what they mean
  8. Copyright and (another) new Brexit vote This WEEK

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us