(12 April 2013) – The European Citizens’ Initiative is struggling to gain momentum a year after being launched, bogged down by technical and bureaucratic hurdles that have prevented a single petition from meeting all the requirements, said civic activists who met in Brussels.
ECIs are a form of petition created under the 2009 Lisbon Treaty to encourage grassroots involvement in European lawmaking. Of the nearly 30 proposed ECIs only 14 have successfully registered and just one – focusing on water rights – has gathered the required one million signatures. But the latter falls short of requirements because the signatures come only from five EU states, two short of the minimum needed.
One problem is that each national data protection authority has to examine whether the petition is in conformity with privacy rules. Because a minimum number of seven countries is required, this makes the system too burdensome. In addition, some countries have required people to provide their identities for their signature to be accepted.
As a result, current attempts at collecting signatures across Europe for ECIs are struggling to take off. They are facing the problem of lacking coordination throughout campaigns, as well as insufficient assistance from independent organisations, as a civil society-led helpdesk does not yet exist.
“Alliance building and less bureaucracy is vital. We need big NGOs and a large number of citizens with a proper helpdesk,” said Christophe Leclercq, co-founder of Initiative.eu and founder of EurActiv. “Without budgets, communication, and lacking support, there is no point,” he said. (With EurActiv)