Making citizens' initiative a simple and clear tool for EU democracy

The four rapporteurs who are drafting the report on the application and putting into practice of citizen initiative have presented their conclusions to the European Parliament  Constitutional Affairs Committee. Among the suggestions made by MEPs and debated within the Committee are the early check of initiatives the reduction of the number of Member States which should be represented as well as the requirement for ID identification of signatories.

After the introduction of citizen's initiative in the Lisbon Treaty as a way to enhance democracy and public participation in the shaping of EU policy, there are still some practical elements to be clarified in order to make this instrument fully operational. Although the Treaty gives the possibility for one million EU citizens to ask the European Commission to propose a new EU law, issues such as the eligibility of such proposals or the number of Member States to be represented are being addressed by a group of four rapporteurs representing the main political groups within the Chamber.

Parliament stands for early admissibility check and fewer Member States represented

These rapporteurs suggest that, contrary to the Commission proposal of checking the admissibility of an initiative only after 300,000 signatures have been collected, the check should be done at the point of registration on the Commission website, as a way to guarantee that citizens do not end up signing initiatives that do not meet the criteria.

To ensure that the initiatives are serious in nature and have a European dimension, the draft report suggests a citizens' committee of at least seven members coming from seven Member States should be set up to register an initiative. Members of the Committee and representatives from the Commission also discussed over the criteria which should be applied in this admissibility test, further to the “European dimension” of the initiative.

The Lisbon Treaty also says about citizen's initiative that signatories have to come from a "significant number" of Member States. Commission and Council have stated that this figure should be one third of the Member States, while Parliament's rapporteurs argue one fifth is enough. This would bring the number down from nine to six countries.

The draft report aims also at simplifying the signing of initiatives by deleting the obligation to give an ID card number when signing. This suggestion was, however, contested by a Council representative who argued that Member States have to be able to verify the authenticity of the signatures.

Following the previous meeting of the Committee over citizen's initiative in October 2010 and after rapporteurs' report, the Constitutional Affairs Committee plans to vote on the report on the citizens' initiative at its next meeting to be held between 29 and 30 November. The plenary vote could then be held in December, and after that Member States have asked for 12 months for national implementation of the new legislation.