RTBF/EURANET – TIME FOR ECI REVIEW?
On 11 October, ECAS’ Director, Assya Kavrakova, and Digital Democracy Manager, Elisa Lironi, took part in a Citizens’ Corner debate organised by Euranet Plus and RTBF at the European Parliament on the challenges facing the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI).
The debate consisted of two separate panels, bringing together key MEPs working with the ECI and other ECI stakeholders. Both sessions were broadcast live. The speakers were asked to reflect on the challenges faced by the ECI and suggest ways to improve this unique tool for participatory democracy.
ECAS’ intervention focused on three core messages:
- In terms of its weaknesses, ECAS pointed chiefly to the logistical challenges posed by the current mechanism for collecting signatures, which lacks harmonisation across Member States, as well as the substantial financial and human resources that are needed to obtain the 1,000,000 signatures necessary for an ECI to be successful. Another significant weakness of the ECI, according to ECAS’ research, is its perceived ineffectiveness, due to a lack of concrete actions from the European Commission following successful ECIs, which is frustrating for citizens. Furthermore, the ECI is not suitable for everyday use, given its complexity and the costs involved in its implementation. Hence, additional e-participation tools should be explored by EU institutions, that would not replace, but complement, our representative democracy model;
- On a more positive note, the ECI is an instrument of transnational participatory democracy at the EU level, contributing to the promotion of a “European spirit”, although it is the only existing tool of this kind. ECAS argued that it should be maintained, improved and further promoted, particularly in times of rising Euroscepticism, and ECAS is currently exploring alternative ways to engage citizens using Information and Communications Technology (ICT), with a view to developing a crowdsourcing experience at EU level that would enable citizens to share their views with policy-makers in a simple and user-friendly way;
- Finally, ECAS stressed the vital role NGOs have played since the implementation of the ECI in 2012, by acting as mediators between citizens and EU institutions. The ECI Support Centre, run by ECAS in partnership with two other organisations, provides legal and communications advice to citizens and organisations wanting to put forward an ECI in order to increase their prospects of success. Civil society networks campaign strongly together to improve the functioning of the ECI.
Panel 1 – Elisa Lironi (French)
Panel 2 – Assya Kavrakova (English)