On 1 April 2012, the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) was launched under Regulation 211/2011, based on the Treaty of Lisbon, Art 11(4) TEU. Now, European citizens had the opportunity to play an active role in EU policy-making. At least 1 million European citizens have the right to as the European Commission to legislate on a certain issue as long as it is within the competences of the Commission. This trans-national tool, the European Citizens’ Initiative, directly connects European citizens with the EU institutions, allowing citizens to directly propose new laws for the European Commission to consider.
The European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) has continually played an active role in the dissemination and supporting of the European Citizens’ Initiative. In January 2018, ECAS in consortium with the European Service Network and CARSA operated the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum Pilot Project on behalf of and under contract to the European Commission. After the successful implementation of this two-year Pilot Project, the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum officially became part of the new regulation on the European Citizens’ Initiative that entered into force on the 1st January 2020. Currently, ECAS in cooperation with Democracy International and ProMedia operate the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum on behalf of and under contract to the European Commission.
The European Citizens’ Initiative Forum (ECI Forum) is an online collaborative platform (available in all 24 EU languages) that provides advice and information to initiative organisers before, during and after the process of launching and implementing an initiative. This is the main platform for all citizens interested in the ECI to get practical information, connect with other citizens and discuss potential ECI ideas. The Forum is made of four main pillars: 1. Learn, 2. Discuss, 3. Connect, 4. Seek Advice.
On the Learn page, you can find Guidance Notes, Success Stories, Webinars, and testimonials from initiative organisers. Currently, there are 8 Guidance Notes on Forum including How to draft an initiative: legal requirement and practical advice and the Central Online Collection System. There are six Success Stories with the six successful initiatives: End the Cage Age; Ban glyphosate and protect and the environment from toxic pesticides; Minority Safepack – one million signatures for diversity in Europe; Stop vivisection; Water and sanitation are a human right! Water is a public good, not a commodity!; and One of us. There will be more success stories coming this year as initiatives that have successfully collected 1 million validated signatures are getting ready to submit their initiative to the Commission.
From 2019-2022, ECAS organised and carried out 8 webinars on various topics that are relevant and useful to (potential) organisers. For example, in July, ECAS organised a webinar on ‘Campaigning During a Global Crisis: How to Make your topic feature when External Events Take Away Attention?’ with communication expert, John Holland, and ECI Organiser, Nils Kluger, from the Stop Finning – Stop the Trade initiative. Overall, more than 381 participants attended these webinars which are available to watch on the Forum.
In addition to all of this, ECAS provides newly registered initiatives with tailor-made training sessions where we inform the organisers of what an ECI campaign entails, the tools available to organisers on the Forum and advice on communications and campaigning. In the past three years, ECAS has trained organisers from 11 newly registered initiatives and continues to do so as more initiatives are registered.
On the Discuss page, citizens can interact with other citizens in discussing potential initiative topics. Citizens who are registered to the Forum can post their discuss idea and then comment and vote on other ideas posted on the discuss section. From 2019-2022, there have been 94 discussion threads, 174 comments and 53 votes. Discussion thread topics have included the energy crisis, democratic deepening of the EU and more.
Moreover, the Forum also has a repository of blog posts written by stakeholders and initiative organiser. Through these blog posts, organisers can share their initiative, their experience using the ECI and their lessons learned. In the past three years, ECAS has published 67 blog posts on various topics. For example, a blog post from interviews with National Authorities on the signature verification process, interviews with ECI organisers on lessons learned, the impact of the ECI as a participatory democracy tool and advice on campaigning and fundraising.
Arguably, one of the most important pillars on the Forum is the Seek Advice page. The Seek Advice page provides high-quality, tailor-made and personalised advice for organisers to support the launch and running of their initiatives. This tailor-made advice by legal, campaigning or fundraising experts is provided in four different categories of enquiries: Legal, campaigning, fundraising and any other relevant topic. From 2019 – 2022, a total of 127 enquiries were submitted through the Seek Advice section on the Forum. Out of this total, 70 enquiries concerned legal aspects, 12 were related to campaigning, 6 were related to fundraising and 35 concerned other relevant topics (see graph below). This tailor-made advice is available in all 24 EU languages, and a total of 5 enquiries were in French, 8 in German, 7 in Italian, 4 in Hungarian, 5 in Spanish, 2 in Dutch, 2 in Greek and 1 in Romanian.
In response to the growing number of young ECI organisers, 201 organisers of all ECI’s from 2012 to 2022 are between the ages of 21 to 30, and the European Year of Youth, ECAS took the initiative to increase its outreach to young European citizens. In February 2022, ECAS mapped out Universities with European Studies curricula in the European Union to present the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum. ECAS contacted 60 identified universities to arrange meetings and presentations of the Forum. The aim of these presentations is to raise awareness about the European Citizens’ Initiative and the Forum, in the hope that more EU citizens will be aware of this unique instrument available for them to shape the European Union. In 2022, ECAS presented the ECI and the ECI Forum with 13 Universities and to 326 students and professors.
Additionally, ECAS attend the LevelUp! Event of the European Youth Forum in October to continue its efforts in the dissemination of the ECI as a participatory democracy tool to the youth. At this event, ECAS informed over 1000 youth participants of this participatory democracy tool through a fun and interactive quiz.
As it has done in the past, ECAS will continue to support this participatory democracy tool that is available to all EU citizens through operating and improving the ECI Forum for organisers.
Interested in launching your own European Citizens’ Initiative or just want to know more? Visit the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum! Here you will find data on the ECI over the years in the infographic, the latest blog posts, the latest discuss ideas and more!
Would you like us to make a presentation at your university and exchange with you and other students? Contact the ECI Forum via firstname.lastname@example.org
 Data taken from 2022 European Citizens’ Initiative Infographic