The Guest Blog

Guest blog post by Maarten de Groot, Campaign Coordinator ECI campaign and Daniela Vancic.

The ECI Campaign is highly disappointed that the majority of the Constitutional Affairs Committee of the European Parliament yesterday decided to ignore our call, supported by more than 70 civil society organisations, to take greater ownership and responsibility for the European Citizens’ Initiative.

The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is the world’s first-ever instrument for transnational, participatory and digitally facilitated democracy, allowing 1 million EU citizens to influence the European political agenda. The ECI exists since 2012, but it has generated more frustration than empowerment among citizens so far, which is why it is currently undergoing a long-overdue legislative revision. On 20 June, the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) of the European Parliament voted on the amendments to the Commission’s proposal for ECI revision. The majority of AFCO voted against an amendment that was tabled by the Greens/EFA group and called for by an alliance of 71 civil society organisations, including all 5 ECIs successful at collecting 1 million signatures, in their joint open letter to the European Parliament. The letter was published on 8 June 2018 in several outlets including Politico and The Parliament Magazine. The amendment would commit the European Parliament to having a debate and vote in plenary on every single successful ECI before the Commission adopts its formal response. The full report on the revision of the ECI regulation – without the amendment tabled by Greens/EFA – was adopted with 19 votes in favour, 1 abstention and 5 votes against.

“The vote in AFCO was a rare chance for the European Parliament to fully commit itself to the European Citizens’ Initiative – a participatory instrument that the EU institutions have so far collectively failed to bring to life. The fact that the majority in AFCO voted against our proposed amendment is a blow for civil society and ECI organisers, whose support is so badly needed for the ECI reform to be successful,” says Carsten Berg, Director of The ECI Campaign.

“The rejection of our proposed amendment does not only undermine the ECI instrument, but it also undermines the credibility of the European Parliament and the already fragile faith of citizens that the European Union can be changed for the better,” comments Daniel Schily, Co-founder of Democracy International.

The AFCO report will need to be supported by the majority of the European Parliament during the plenary sessions in Strasbourg (2-5 July) before the Parliament can enter into the interinstitutional negotiations with the Council and the Commission. The ECI Campaign, together with our civil society partners and with support from inside the European Parliament, will continue to fight for a stronger European Parliament commitment to the ECI.

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