The Citizens' Initiative
The Lisbon Treaty introduced the European citizens’ initiative which is a new form of public participation in European Union policy shaping.
Regulation No 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2011 on the citizens' initiative.
The Lisbon Treaty introduced the European citizens' initiative which is a new form of public participation in European Union policy shaping. The Treaty required the European Parliament and the Council to adopted a Regulation which defines the rules and procedure governing this new instrument.
The citizens' initiative requires such a wide variety of people from across many EU countries, coordinating an initiative will require a great deal of organisation, but with the rise of social media websites the possibilities are endless. However it will most likely be used by organisations and pressure groups who have the ability to mobilise large groups of people (e.g. Greenpeace). What isn't in doubt is that any new initiatives are very likely to have an impact of business and more importantly policy which affect businesses across Europe.
Therefore it is important to keep an eye on how this citizen's initiative will play out in the future. Below is a summary of the procedure outlined in the Regulation:
Requirements for organisers and signatories
The organisers shall be citizens of the Union and be of the age to be entitled to vote in European Parliament elections.
The organisers shall form a citizens' committee of at least seven persons who are residents of at least seven different Member States.
The organisers shall designate one representative and one substitute ('the contact persons'), who shall perform a liaison function between the citizens' committee and the EU institutions throughout the procedure and who shall speak and act on behalf of the citizens' committee.
Minimum number of signatories
An initiative must be backed in the form of "statements of support" (see below for more details) by at least 1 million EU citizens from at least one quarter of the 27 EU member countries, i.e. 7 or more,
Minimum number of signatories per EU country
The minimum number per country is determined by multiplying the number of Members of the European Parliament elected in that country by 750.
Registration of a proposed citizens' initiative
Within two months from the receipt of the required information the Commission shall register a proposed citizens' initiative under a unique registration number and send a confirmation to the organisers, provided that the following conditions are fulfilled:
- the citizens' committee has been formed and the contact persons have been designated
- the proposed initiative falls within the EU's legal remit
- the proposed initiative is not manifestly abusive, frivolous or vexatious;
- the proposed initiative is not manifestly contrary to the values of the EU as set out in Article 2 TEU
Procedures and conditions for collecting support
The organisers shall be responsible for the collection of the necessary statements of support from signatories for a proposed citizens' initiative which has been registered.
Statements of support can be in both paper form or electronic.
Statements of support, which are electronically signed using an advanced electronic signature, within the meaning of Directive 1999/93/EC shall be treated in the same way as statements of support in paper form.
Signatories shall be required to complete statement of support forms made available by the organisers.
Statements of Support
In Annex III of the Regulation you will find the official forms which need to be filled out by each signatory. Form A is for countries which do not require the provision of a personal identification number/personal identification document number and Form B is for countries that do.
Online collection systems
The organisers may only start collecting statements of support through the online collection system once it has obtained the certificate issued by the competent authorities. The organisers shall then make a copy of that certificate publicly available on the website used for the online collection system. However they only need one online collection system for collecting statements of support in several or all countries.
Verification and certification of statements of support
The organisers shall submit statements of support to the relevant country as follows:
- to the country of residence or of nationality of the signatory,
- to the country that issued the personal identification number or the personal identification document provided in the statement of support.
For the purpose of the verification of statements of support, the authentication of signatures shall not be required.
Procedure for the examination of a citizens' initiative by the European Commission
Where the Commission receives a citizens' initiative, it shall:
- publish the citizens' initiative without delay on its website
- receive the organisers at an appropriate level to allow them to explain in detail the matters raised by the citizens' initiative
- within three months, set out in a communication its legal and political conclusions on the citizens' initiative, the action it intends to take, if any, and its reasons for taking or not taking that action
The organisers shall be given the opportunity to present the citizens' initiative at a public hearing organised at the European Parliament.
Protection of personal data
The organisers shall ensure that personal data collected for a given citizen's initiative are not used for any purpose other than their indicated support for that initiative, and shall destroy all statements of support received for that initiative and any copies thereof at the latest one month after submitting that initiative to the Commission or 18 months after the date of registration of the proposed citizens' initiative, whichever is the earlier.
Liability and sanctions
The organisers shall be liable for any damage they cause in the organisation of a citizens' initiative in accordance with applicable national law. They shall also be subject to appropriate sanctions for infringements of the Regulation and in particular for:
- false declarations made by organisers;
- the fraudulent use of data.
Those sanctions shall be effective, proportionate and dissuasive.
Three years after the entry into force of this Regulation, and every three years thereafter, the Commission shall present a report on the implementation of this Regulation.
It shall apply from one year following the date of its entry into force (8th March 2012).
It will only be possible to officially launch the first European Citizens' Initiatives from 1 April 2012.
Ebay Petition to stop Unfair Trade Pactices
"We, the undersigned, oppose attempts by certain brand owners and manufacturers to unfairly limit the sale and resale of their products on the internet."
Launched in July 2009, this petition had already reached 750.000 signatures in just a couple of months when it was officially presented at the European Parliament. The petition was made through the eBay Grassroots Campaigns website, which made it accessible to the community of eBay users who were willing to support it.
Greenpeace Tackle GM Crops
"We call on you (the President of the European Commission) to put a moratorium on the introduction of GM crops into Europe and set up an independent, ethical, scientific body to research the impact of GM crops and determine regulation."
This petition was carried out in 2010 and reached one million signatures in just seven months. It was brought forward in cooperation with Avaaz, which is a website that provides free online campaigning tools for politically motivated individuals.