On 18 March 2016, the European Commission’s answer to the European Parliament’s ECI resolution was made public. The Parliament had asked the Commission to reform the ECI by significantly approving the ECI resolution which was based on the ECI report developed by György Schöpflin MEP. While acknowledging the flaws in the current system, the Commission has announced it will not revise the ECI Regulation for now.
After four years since its launch, ECI organisers have been facing many difficulties in using the ECI because it has proven not to be user-friendly enough, not cost-effective, and largely unknown to citizens. The complexity of ECI rules and procedures has left citizens discouraged while the lack of impact has left them frustrated. This is why the Parliament, civil society organisations like ECAS and many other stakeholders have been calling for a revision of the ECI regulation in order to improve this tool for participatory democracy in the EU.
The resolution is partially welcomed as it contains improvements to be implemented under the current legislative framework. Many of the points raised by the European Parliament have already been identified in the Commission’s own Report on the implementation of the ECI, and the Commission is already implementing, and will continue to implement, measures in several of the areas highlighted in the resolution to improve the functioning of the ECI.
However, the Commission considers that after only three years after its effective entry into force, it is at this point “too early to launch a legislative revision of the Regulation” – which was one of the main requests made in the Parliament’s Resolution and urged by civil society representatives among which ECAS. Such a revision is yet necessary in order to address some of the flaws in the functioning of the ECI, such as the complex registration requirements, the participation of those aged under 18, or the deadlines for collecting signatures, which cannot be solved under the current legislative framework. Nevertheless, as part of its ongoing assessment of the functioning of the instrument, the Commission has promised to continue to work in 2016 and does not rule out a revision at a later stage.
Fears that the Commission would not undertake a revision of the ECI Regulation were already looming at the last Parliament’s ECI Hearing on 22 February 2016. In her intervention at the hearing, our Director stressed that the question was not what needs to be done in terms of reform, but rather to know when such a reform would finally take place.
20 April 2016: ECI Day in Brussels:
Since the ECI Regulation is not going to be revised this year, 2016’s ECI Day, organised by the EESC in cooperation with several civil society organisations including ECAS, will focus on how to make an ECI as effective as possible, and will raise awareness about the help available to organisers. More information here.
5 May 2016: Democratic Participation in a Citizen’s Europe: What Next for the EU? in Liverpool
This collaborative conference, hosted by the University of Liverpool, will bring together democracy activists, campaigners, academics and policy makers to explore current challenges and future opportunities for EU public participation. It will build on learning from citizens’ initiatives and petitions, deliberative forums, citizen lobbying, social movements and more. Participants will together imagine new ways and means to develop a more participative and democratic European Union.
For more information and registration: https://www.liverpool.ac.uk/law-and-social-justice/conferences/democratic-participation-in-a-citizens-europe-what-next-for-the-eu/