Rollout Democracy blog

Three reasons to launch a European Citizens' Initiative

As EU Member State citizens, we face a plethora of collective challenges: from the consequences of climate change all the way to immigration, through the negative externalities of the 4th industrial revolution to the threat of international terrorist networks.

In order to address these challenges, individual EU Member States have to bind together. To paraphrase the former Danish Finance Minister,Kristian Jensen: “There are two kinds of European nations. There are small nations and there are countries that have not yet realized they are small nations.”

However, we here at Rollout Democracy take a europtimist approach: let’s start working peacefully together to overcome our collective challenges! Now in order to do so, we need to go beyond merely pointing out problems - we need solutions.

Travelling along this train of thought, have you - or one of your clients - ever come up with a concrete idea on how to advocate an issue at a EU level? Well, we’ve got good news: there is a way for you to get your proposal to be directly taken up by the European Commission. How? Through launching a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI)!

So what exactly is a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI)? It is an instrument enabling participatory democracy by allowing EU Member State citizens to directly suggest concrete legal changes in any field where the European Commission has power to propose legislation.

At Rollout Democracy, we have hands-on experience in successfully delivering a historic ECI victory.

Having provided winning strategy consulting services and effective civic technology solutions, we’d like to share through this article 3 key reasons why we advise our clients to use this advocacy tool, whenever the circumstances are the right ones. 

1. To drive directly institutional change

Non-institutionalized petitions with no direct, legally binding response consequences are limited in their impact. They are important, in the sense that they can raise awareness of an issue through gaining popular approval, thus moving decision-makers to act, but this effect is indirect at best and a response is not guaranteed.

However, if you successfully push an ECI across, you may be able to drive direct institutional change: the European Commission has to consider your proposal(s), respond and can initiative legislative acts. Furthermore, the European Parliament must hold a hearing on a successful ECI, thus placing it on it’s agenda and giving it coverage and exposure. Therefore, this unique e-democracy tool can empower you to drive directly institutional change.

2. To mobilize supporters to achieve concrete goals

Good causes are time consuming, require a lot of effort and the question of whether a positive outcome will be secured always hangs in the air. Launching an ECI however allows your supporters to focus on working towards fulfilling concrete objectives with clear outcomes. Thus, time put in by your activists yields practical results as every single signature that is collected gives your team a sense of progress and achievement.

Furthermore, working towards fulfilling the requirement thresholds of an ECI in EU Member States gives a sense of building momentum that results in boosts of enthusiasm once a threshold is passed - it emboldens teams on the ground locally to push hard with a sense of working towards a larger, pan-European outcome. ECI’s therefore allow you to enthusiastically mobilize supporters to achieve concrete goals.

3. To foster European civism

As the European Union is the only multi-level polity with such an e-democracy tool, ECIs allow you to put together a unique pan-European coalition, essentially a grassroots EU citizens movement, labouring intensively on a common cause with achievable aims. This results in intensified civic links between passionately Europeanist individuals and civil society organisations, potentially spanning across the breadth and width of our continent.

As a consequence, all of those who are involved, including the activists, signatories, and those who are exposed to your ECI learn more about the possibilities for EU Member State citizens to drive change directly, and engage is purposeful civic activism at a European Union level. Therefore, by launching a European Citizens’ Initiative you help foster European civism.

Convinced? If so, start putting together everything you need to launch a European Citizens’ Initiative!

First, in order to launch an ECI, you need to set up a “Citizens’ Committee” of 7 EU citizens who are living in at least 7 different EU Member States. Then, you have to register your reform proposal in the form of an ECI with the European Commission, in order to verify that it is admissible. If it has been registered, then you must satisfy 3 conditions in order to secure two institutional outcomes: a European Parliament hearing on your ECI, and a response from the European Commission.

As mentioned above before however, there are three concrete conditions a European Citizens’ Initiative must satisfy however, in order to be successful:

  • 1.000.000: in order for the proposal(s) contained within a European Citizens’ Initiative to be considered, 1 million statements of support from EU Member State citizens is required.

  • 7: to secure success, concrete, designated and proportional country signature thresholds must be passed in at least 7 EU Member States. In the Republic of Malta, this threshold is 4.500 statements of support, whilst in the Federal Republic of Germany it is 72,000 signatures.

  • 1 year: following on from the date of registration, the organisers of a European Citizens’ Initiative have one year to successfully collect at least 1 million statements of support from EU citizens, and pass the signature threshold in at least 7 EU Member States.

With such high thresholds, launching a European Citizens’ Initiative is an adventurous and challenging affair - however, with the right help, you can push your Cause through: get in contact with us here at Rollout Democracy today, so we can start working together on delivering your ECI!.

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