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Three years of the ECI: European Parliament Hearing

ECAS, under the framework of the ECI Support Centre, attended the event to carefully listen and contribute to the debate with its own recommendation on how to improve the ECI.

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  1. Last Thursday, 26th of February, the European Parliament held a public hearing on the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) to examine the legal and technical hurdles for the existing procedure and consider the way forward. The event was organised by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and the Petitions Committee and was focused on the "Lessons to be drawn from the implementation of the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) regulation"
  2. Three years since the entry into force of Reg. 211/2011, the European Commission will deliver by 1 April a report that will assess the instrument and its implementation.
  3. The European Ombudsman is also working on an own inquiry report on ECIs to be released in March 2015.
  4. In less than three years, 51 ECI have been presented to the European Commission, with only 31 being registered and 20 being refused on the basis of their lack of a legal basis.
  5. For Danuta Hübner (EPP, PL), Chair of the Constitutional Affairs Commitee, the ECI is a "direct and practical expression of the new distribution of power in the EU, but we have not yet absorbed this new reality in which citizens are co-equal to the EP and the Council with respect to requesting the Commission to initiate a legislative proposal".
  6. In 2012 and 2013, interest in the ECI was high. Over 46 ECIs were submitted to the Commission, but only 26 were registered and only three succeeded in gathering the necessary signatures, with none leading to any meaningful action. As a consequence, in 2014 the number of ECIs collapsed. Today only three ECIs are active.
  7. Experts, observers and campaigners have identified a number of shortcomings in the ECI's implementation, which impact negatively on the effectiveness and usefulness of this instrument of transnational participatory democracy.
  8. Cecilia Wikström (ALDE, SE), Chair of the Petitions Commitee, said: "The fact that so far only three citizens' initiatives have managed to fulfill all the requirements and none of the initiatives have led to a legislative proposal, is a clear sign that the procedure needs to be improved".
  9. György Schöpflin (EPP, HU), rapporteur on the implementation of the regulation on the ECI stressed that "The ECI has potential to be one of the most effective ways of connecting the citizens of Europe to the EU. It is radical in that it gives citizens a way to launch legislation at the EU level and to affect the direction of European integration. To date, the ECI has not been a great success as too many such initiatives have fallen by the wayside or, worse, come up against the legalistic and bureaucratic assumptions of the Commission. Obviously this must change".
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