Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

Movement on the new European Citizens' Initiative

Adelina Marini, April 26, 2010

For the first time since the entering into force of the Lisbon Treaty (December 1, 2009) a debate will start on one of its fundamental novelties in the Treaty - the European Citizens' Initiative. It will be discussed at the General Affairs Council, gathering together the foreign ministers of the EU under the presidency of the Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

What is the common European Citizens' Initiative?

It gives European citizens the opportunity to make legislative proposals to the European Commission on a specific issue, if it is supported by at least a million signatories, representing a "significant" number of member states. The procedure for a legislative proposal however, although described, still is causing disputes.

This is why the General Affairs Council will have to define how the registration of a proposed initiative and admissibility should take place; the minimum number of signatories per member state; the procedures and conditions for the collection of statements of support; to create online collection systems.

The proposal must then be approved by the Council by qualified majority and then by the European Parliament. According to some analysts the project is still-born because it suggests one million people to support an initiative, which the Commission might overrule as a national responsibility. Separately, it is still not clear how this "third legislative element" in the EU will work with the other two - the Commission and the Parliament.

Among the other issues the foreign ministers will deal with in Luxembourg today, including the Bulgarian Nikolay Mladenov, will be the European External Action Service and the new economic strategy Europe 2020.

The diplomatic service is also one of the novelties in the Lisbon Treaty, causing a lot of wrangling too, which will obviously thwart the ambitious plans its framework and structure to be ready by the end of April. The ministers will discuss the March 25 proposal of the High Representative for Foreign Affairs baroness Ashton. In the meantime, however, there are unofficial talks on a new proposal.