2016 is a key year for the future of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI): the European Commission is revising the current regulation, various stakeholders have identified the major problems and made appropriate recommendations and now the EESC has decided to draw up an own-initiative opinion to present civil society’s views on the ECI and participatory democracy.
Capitalising on this strategic opportunity, the EESC will hold a public hearing on the revision of the ECI. The aim of the hearing is to present, discuss and collect arguments to feed into the EESC opinion on the ECI in areas such as the ECI’s impact and validation process, simplification of the rules, the existing political limits to participatory democracy at European level and the role of the EU institutions and Member States in the ECI process.
TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
Policy areas covered by the ECI, ECI impact, and the validation process
- Should ECIs be allowed to amend the EU treaties?
- Commission’s justification for approval/rejection: clarity of the rules, legal assistance.
- Reasons why there has been no legislative proposal in response to the three successful ECIs; what would be the proper impact of ECIs and appropriate follow-up given the requirements and the efforts undertaken by successful organisers – in other words, what would be an adequate response from the European Commission to a successful ECI?
Simplification of the rules
- What are the most urgent simplifications to Regulation 211/2011 and why: uniform forms for collecting signatures, ID number requirement, better definition of the policy areas, online collection system, liability for the protection of personal data, legal status of the citizens’ committee, other?
- Simplification of the registration procedure.
- Decision of the start date for the campaign in the hands of the organisers.
Current political limits to participatory democracy on a European level – how to tackle them?
- Different systems and approaches in terms of national policies.
- Not enough communication and information from EU and national institutions.
- The current role of the Europe Direct network and the advantages of having ECI contact points in every Member State.
The role of the EU institutions and Member States in the ECI process and better defined support
- Cooperation between EU institutions; should there be a structured form of interinstitutional cooperation with a clear division of services that each institution can provide to citizens organising an ECI relevant to its particular domain?
- What institutional support and from which institution: legal advice before registering an ECI, funding, possibility of fundraising.
- What other services, apart from translation of the descriptions and communication (information materials, members’ involvement in Going Local activities, the ECI DAY, etc.), can the EESC provide to ECI organisers?
- The role of the Member States at central, regional and local level to raise awareness of ECIs as a tool available to citizens.