The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is the first participatory tool that gives citizens the right to directly participate in the EU’s legislative process. This right, set out in Regulation 211/2011, entered into force on first of April 2012, and has now been in place for 18 months.
The ECI gives citizens a European right of initiative, providing the opportunity for at least 1 million European citizens to ask the European Commission (EC) to legislate on a certain issue provided that that it is within the framework of its competences. Hence the result of the ECI is not a zero-sum game. Citizens now have the same right as the European Parliament and the European Council to ask the legislator to consider their request, as the EC has still the right of initiative in proposing legislation. Consequently the ECI is not a direct democracy tool but a participatory democracy tool, called the ‘right of initiative’ as it gives citizens the opportunity to place their request at the beginning of the policy-process.