Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

The European Citizens' Initiative is now a fact

Adelina Marini, February 21, 2011

The long-awaited European Citizens' Initiative, the idea of which has been stipulated in the Lisbon Treaty, is already signed officially. This happened on February 16th in Strasbourg since on December 15th an agreement was reached between the European Parliament and the Council. The concept of the initiative is European citizens to be able to initiate legislative proposals by thus enhancing citizens' participation. The requirements, however, are difficult because the initiative enables people to make legislative proposals only on issues, related to the European Union and the founding treaties. This means that in order to organise a campaign, for example, quite an intricate representativity will be needed.

In order an initiative to be proposed to the European Commission several things will be necessary. The first is - an organisation committee to be established for every concrete proposal, which should consist of seven people (at least) from at least seven member states. This is the committee that will deal with the entire organisation of collecting signatures, which cannot be less than a million coming from at least one quarter of the member states (which is no less than 6 countries). The regulation defines the minimum number of people from every member state which corresponds to the number of the Members of the European Parliament elected in each Member State, multiplied by 750.

So, for Bulgaria the minimum number of signatures is 12 750. As could be expected the minimum for Germany is 74 250. The minimum for each country is described in a table in Annex I of the Regulation.

MEPs cannot participate in organisation committees, is also written in the regulation of the European Parliament and the Council. The organisers are those who collect the statements of support on paper or in electronic form and they are also responsible for the protection of personal data, according to the national legislation of each member state. Wherever support is being collected online, the data must be kept on the territory of the member state where the online system is based.

An important element of the initiative was regulating the verification of signatures. As it is allowed collecting signatures both electronically and on paper, the organisers will have to separate them and send them to competent bodies in every member state. The competent body has to verify the statements of support in three months, according to national legislation and practice. Then this body has to issue a certificate, verifying the number of valid signatures.

In order not to use the same signatures for various initiatives the regulation provides for the destruction of all signatures and personal data by the organisers not later than a month after filing a proposal with the European Commission. An exception will be made when the data is needed for legal or administrative procedures. Member states are those that have to ensure that organisers will be subject of appropriate penalties for infringements of the regulation, especially for false declarations or fraudulent use of data.

Regarding funding of initiatives the regulation stipulates that organisers have to publish their sources of financing yet with the registering of the initiative they propose.

During the signing ceremony in Strasbourg European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said that this new instrument gave European citizens the chance of being heard. Moreover, this opportunity is granted to at least 0.2% of the overall population of the Union as much as one million people are. The entering into force of the regulation will happen on the 20th day after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union.

In Annexes III and IV the forms for collection of statements of support can be seen, as well as the peculiarities of each member state what personal data are required by the local authorities. For Bulgaria this is the personal number.