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Call to the EU to inform European citizens about their new agenda setting right

Date

22 Mar 2012

The ECAS/Democracy International conference ‘European Citizens’ Initiatives : On the Starting Line’ 20 March was attended by 200 people from civil society organisations. Opening speeches by Maroš Šefčovič Vice President of the European Commission and Meglena Kuneva Honorary President of ECAS can be found here.

How ready are the 27 member states for the entry into force of the European Citizen Initiative’s (ECI) on 1 April 2012? First results from new member states in a survey presented to the event still showed gaps and unanswered questions. 

The strongest message to come out of the conference was that there must be the political will and action plan by the EU institutions and national authorities to inform European citizens of this new right in the run up to the European elections in 2014.

Over 1 million signatures must be collected within 12 months from a minimum of seven member states to demand European legislation within the competence of the European Commission. This is a huge task. Social media have a role to play but it is neither acceptable nor realistic to allow for the ‘banalisation’ of a democratic instrument.

At this event ECI’s planned where presented: on the right to vote in national elections for EU citizens living in another member state; media freedom and pluralism; water as a human right; the right to a basic income and others. (See the conference programme)

The citizens’ committee and organisers of ECIs need a supportive infrastructure:

- The contact point in the commission should be properly resourced and provide for translations. Other institutions and national authorities should also provide assistance

- An independent non-profit help desk should bring together the expertise across different civil society groups. Training and online tools should be developed.

- Interaction with the EU institutions is important to manage expectations and in particular how the European Parliament organises the hearing to give a fair chance to genuine citizens’ initiatives.

The conference ended with stark warnings about the state of transnational democracy in Europe from Andres Gross MP and Gerald Häfner MEP. 

A full report of the event will be available shortly.

 
 
For further information, please contact 
Tony Venables 
+32 (2) 548 98 26
 
 
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