The Guest Blog

By Johannes W. Pichler

Pre-reflection on the ECI Conference in Vienna, Oct 5th 2012.

For the purpose of enhancing the deficient Union’s legitimacy, the “Convention
on the Future of the EU” dreamt of full direct democracy in the EU as a means
of remedy. More modest assembly members promoted at least a “Principle of
Participatory Democracy”, which was finally enshrined in the “Constitution Treaty”
(Art I 47), but then dissipated along with the disappearance of the high-flying idea of
a Constitution.

Then came the disillusioning Lisbon era. Remarkably enough, the participation
articles in the Lisbon Union Treaty’s Art 11 are exactly the same provisions in
substance with perfectly identical wording as those ornate formal “Principles”. Thus,
from a legal-sociological perspective, one could suppose that the concept of a
principle of participatory democracy is still in the current version of the Union Treaty
as well, though not expressively called by this name.

So, purely optimistic dreamers and proponents and communicators who trumpet
the EU participation message expected that any institution and any individual with a
sense of personal responsibility for the constitutional fate of this Union would share
the spirit of democratising the EU and would be eager to optimise the constitutional
provisions and of the constitution’s ideal and that the ECI would be fostered carefully
and empathically. Have “they” been eager? Are “they” been fostering and sheltering
the ECI with empathy? Do they devotedly serve for a Europe of the Citizens, do
they?

We await some criticisms at the Vienna conference and many questions like the
following ones:

Does the regulation really work in a highly proactive and flourishing way in favor of
attracting the Europeans in their masses and to make them trust that the EU would
hear their real everyday European concerns?

Were the premises the appropriate ones, like that one that the regulation’s
prime task is to prevent any thinkable or just imaginable misuse and to prevent
any “participation waves” that could cause overcapacity and other troubles?

How could it happen, that the EU Commission offers officially an online tool that
turned out to suffer from such serious and disastrous technical dysfunction that it
had to be subjected to a total recall?

Well, this time the EU Commission has shown up with an extraordinary bad
conscience which ends in a moratorium. But what about that? This instrument is
of total unknown legal nature and did not get communicated to the member states.
But it is the MS which has the competence for defining the valid period of signature
gathering. So, are we obliged to inform the initiatives that there is an extraneous
source of concern ahead?

One of the rare first ECIs – by the way, not the “poorest” one, by any means –
simply gave up and withdrew its application, accompanied by the following statement
addressed to the EU Commission:

“The ECI is currently not fit for purpose (…) The ECI currently does not work and the
effort of making it work detracts from the ability to successfully campaign (…) “.

Nothing to add to that?

Lets find out in Vienna, frankly, openly and honestly.

Conference:

Conference: “Assessment of the European Citizens’ Initiative”
Time: Friday, 05 October 2012, 09:00-18:00
Place: Großer Vortragssaal, Interior Ministry of Austria, Minoritenplatz 9, Vienna
Language: English (with limited German translation)

Registration/Contact: office@legalpolicy.eu; Office: +43 662-43980; Mobile: +43-650-5154370

Media representatives are kindly invited! Photo opportunities in the breaks and during discussions,
interview opportunities in the breaks at 12:30 and 16:00.

Agenda and more information at http://www.legalpolicy.eu/#!vstc5=eci-link

Johannes W. Pichler is Professor of European Legal Development at the University of Graz, Austria, and Director of the Austrian Institute of Legal Policy in Salzburg.

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Comments

  1. Hi,

    Beside the issues mentioned in this article, one that is fundamental to the success of the failure of a campaign that hardly been discussed: the software used to collect signatures.

    The European Commission has developed a software and campaigners have to use it to get a chance of getting their platform collecting signatures certified.

    Unfortunately, the design and usability of this software haven’t taken into account any of the best practices for campaigning sites. I’d argue that it isn’t a campaigning tool, it’s an administrative system that does the minimum to satisfy a legal requirement

    This is the only running version of this software, I let you try and judge.
    http://signature.right2water.eu/

    If you want a longer list of all the issues as identified while putting in place the first ECI that has been certified:
    http://www.tttp.eu/news/fubar

  2. Dear Prof. Pichler,

    First I wish to take this very first opportunity to thank you for inviting me to the recent ECI conference in Vienna on 5/11 and also for the similar ECAS conference in Brussels. In this connection I am very thankful also for this your blog as it is exctly as you have presented that the ECI for some reasons is not yet bringing to the EU citizens what it has to be according to the particular articles of the Lisbon treaty on the participatory democracy. In this connection i would like just to highlight only some issues that I have identified through my particular research and I have raised them also at the Vienna conference where among others i have asked the EC representative if she could say some more specifics why so far some (5) initiatives were rejected. To what question I have not yet received any answer in spite of the fact I have asked it also at other fora. In this connection I have some critical comments or questions regarding the way how this ECI has been handled in spite of the fact that it has been inacted as a part of the EU treaty so to say by constitution as follows:
    – how it comes that some initiatives have been rejected as long as they are not propagating some unacceptable initiaitve like e.g. propagation of terrorism, wars, drugs, etc. but otherwise i think it is right of the ECI to prepare any legally acceptable intitiative and the EC should not be the organ to declare which one is acceptable and which not.
    – in my opinoin the ECI has to be attached instead to the EC and its vice-president as according to their logic then also in the EP should be only pro integration and pro EU parties although we know that on its extreme right and extrame left are parties or MEPs who openly and publicly clearly declare that the EU in the current setup of the EU is obsolete and does not correspond to the needs of its efficient functioning
    – the technical functioning of the ECI web is also not working properly and so not serving to its main supposed purpose i.e. serving to the participatory democracy and ECInitiatives.
    There are also some other problems in this respect that so far make the functioning EGI absolutely not corresponding to its main purpose to support initiatives of the European citizens.
    It looks like that the EC in a short period of time has been somehow not mananging the 3d big one of its responsiblities. After premature calling off the Lisbon strategy already in 2004 after just 4 years, Euro as a common currency as for 10 years has not taken any action against the countries violating the maastricht criteria for Euro although the treaty has authorized it and now the ECI. As for the Euro crisis I am sure that if the EC would have followed its treaty obligations there would be no such deep crisis as it is now but the problem was that in such a case the EC would have to take also an action against France and the FRG and that was probably too much for that EC and this EC as well under the same leadership. What is the biggest paradox the EC has contributed deeply in view of the above to the Euro crisis and its depth but the former commissioners are still taking tousands of their repatriation grant for 3 yeas in the amount of over 10k Euro/month (exept the Austrian commissioner and 2-3 others) while citizens of the EU have to “tight theirs their and pay the cost of Euro crisis from their often very small salaries or are effected by the huge unemployment. More on this you could see in my article on //erdc.fm.uniba.sk.

    In view of this I think that the role of the EC in all these 3 failures as well as in many others has to be seriously considered and solved as the treaties are authorizing.

    Thank you again for your position on ECI and am looking forward to our continuing cooperation in the matter for the benefits of the participatroy democracy in the EU.

    Best regards,

    Dusan Soltes

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