Tuesday

26th May 2020

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 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe 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's smallest institution warned on 'threats, blackmail'

An EU institution known as the EESC has been given until the autumn to initiate a series of reforms to protect victims of harassment and whistleblowers, including against threats, blackmail and bribery attempts.

Ombudsman slams EU bank watchdog for 'revolving doors'

The European Banking Authority allowed its executive director to take a job at one of the world's largest financial lobbying groups. The move has been slammed by the European Ombusdman, who called it maladministration.

Commission defends von der Leyen hiring PR firm

The Berlin-based public relations agency Story Machine has been working with European Commission president Von der Leyen since her days as a candidate for the top EU post. Despite offering the same in-house service, the Commission defended the president's choice.

This is the (finally) approved European Commission

MEPs gave the green light to the entire new European Commission during the plenary session in Strasbourg - but with the abstention of the Greens and a rejection by the leftist group GUE/NGL.

Magazine

Welcome to the EU engine room

Welcome to the EU engine room: the European Parliament (EP's) 22 committees, which churn out hundreds of new laws and non-binding reports each year and which keep an eye on other European institutions.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Sustainable Energy WeekThis year’s EU Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) will be held digitally!
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic states are fighting to protect gender equality during corona crisis
  3. UNESDACircularity works, let’s all give it a chance
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers call for post-corona synergies between economic recovery and green transition
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic co-operation on COVID-19
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic research collaboration on pandemics

Latest News

  1. Recovery plans unveiled This WEEK
  2. EU and UK stumbling into Irish border crisis
  3. Malta patrol boat 'intimidates' capsized migrants
  4. How coronavirus might hit EU defence spending
  5. Herman Van Rompuy on power and influence in the EU
  6. EU links access to recovery fund to economic advice
  7. EU wants to halve use of pesticides by 2030
  8. Top editors alarmed by media cuts in EU and beyond

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us