Emily O’Reilly explained: “The Commission has done a lot to give effect to the ECI right in a citizen-friendly way. However, more can be done to ensure that ECI organisers feel that their efforts to mobilise one million signatures are worthwhile and that political debate at the European level takes account of their initiatives, even if specific initiatives do not lead to new EU legislation. We need a more effective dialogue with ECI organisers at different stages of an initiative as well as more transparent decision-making as regards what action the Commission takes on ECIs.“
ECAS is pleased to see that specific recommendations have been put forward regarding the need to provide better reasoning and clarity in the “legal admissibility check” and to provide Europe Direct with more guidance to support citizens wishing to propose an ECI.
Here the eleven suggestions from the European Ombudsman:
1. Provides as much guidance as possible to staff in the Europe Direct Contact Centre so that they can exercise reasonable judgment in striking the delicate balance between supplying helpful advice and being seen to steer a particular ECI.
2. Endeavours to provide reasoning for rejecting ECIs that is more robust, consistent and comprehensible to the citizen.
3. Articulates more clearly for citizens its understanding of the value of the public debate generated through the ECI procedure and of how this debate, in its own right and irrespective of the individual outcome, gives the ECI process value and legitimacy.
4. Does all in its power to see to it that, throughout the ECI procedure, the public debate ensuing from a registered ECI is as inclusive and transparent as possible.
5. Explores with Parliament, the latter being responsible for organising public hearings, how to ensure that the two arms of the legislature, Parliament and Council, as well as interested stakeholders (for and against the initiative) are present at the public hearing.
6. In its formal response to an ECI that has obtained one million signatures, explains its political choices to the public in a detailed and transparent manner.
7. Duly follows up on its commitment to analyse the suggestions made in contributions to the Ombudsman’s consultation aimed at improving the online collection system (OCS) software.
8. Should be mindful, in improving the OCS software, of the needs of persons with disabilities who wish to submit statements of support of ECIs online.
9. Draws on the example of the Transparency Register’s quality checks and its alerts and complaints system to ensure that funding and sponsorship information provided by ECI organisers reflects reality and that any issues are brought to its attention.
10. In order to facilitate EU citizens wishing to sign an ECI, and irrespective of in which Member State they are currently residing, proposes once again to the legislature simpler and uniform requirements for all Member States in terms of the personal data to be provided when signing a statement of support.
11. Comes forward with ideas on the two important aspects of translation and funding of ECIs and, if necessary, proposes relevant provisions in a revised ECI Regulation.