The European Citizens’ Initiative (better known as ECI) is an important participatory democracy tool that European citizens can address to have a greater say in shaping EU policies that affect their lives. The ECI enables citizens across the EU to mobilize around issues of common concern, foster debate and initiate reform by proposing concrete legislative changes.
This instrument was introduced by Article 11 of the Lisbon Treaty and is thus an additional right that European citizens have enjoyed for more than a decade, that is, since the 1st April 2012.
The ECI provides that in order to launch an initiative, a group of organizers consisting of at least 7 EU citizens residing in 7 different countries must be established, and after that, the European Commission must be asked to register the initiative, creating a confidential account for the organizers that is necessary for managing the Initiative and working with the Commission. Within 12 months of registration, at least 1 million signatures must be collected from EU citizens of voting age in European elections, and signatures must come from at least 7 different EU member countries.
In addition, the proposed action in order to be considered eligible and thus to be registered must meet certain conditions. These conditions are the following ones:
The proposal must not manifestly depart from the Commission’s competence to submit a proposal for a legal act;
The proposal must not be insulting, futile or vexatious;
The proposal must not be contrary to the values and principles on which the European Union is founded.
The ECI assumes critical importance in ensuring that the European Union is as democratic and inclusive as possible for citizens. Therefore, it is also important for the Commission to analyze and receive initiatives that reflect the will and the needs of European citizens.
From 2012 to 2023, 126 applications have been received by the European Commission, of which 101 are eligible and have therefore been registered.
On the 31st May 2023, the European Commission worked on just one of the initiatives proposed by citizens. Then, the European Commission decided to register a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) entitled “Effective implementation of the concept of judicial precedent in EU countries”.
This initiative calls on the Commission to move forward to ensure that a mechanism is put in place to guarantee the mutual recognition of final judicial decisions made by the courts of other member states on similar or identical matters that require the application of Union law and have cross-border implications. In addition to this, it also calls for the possibility of invoking judicial precedents issued by the courts of the country in question.
With the registration carried out by the European Commission therefore, it is confirmed that the European citizens’ initiative meets all the formal conditions required by the EU law. In this sense the initiative is judged legally admissible. This obviously means that the Commission has not yet proceeded to analyze this initiative in all its parts, and therefore the Commission’s decision in no way prejudges the final legal and political conclusions and the action that may result from its eventual adoption, it being understood that the initiative will still have to preliminarily obtain the necessary support and thus, as mentioned earlier, obtain the necessary number of signatures, respecting both its quantitative and qualitative indications.
At this point, starting on this 31st May the organizers will have six months to be able to start collecting signatures. Within a year, one million signatures will need to be reached in at least seven different countries belonging to the European Union. After that, if one million signatures are reached, citizens will be able to ask the European Commission to propose legal acts in areas within its competence.
The European Commission will therefore be required to act, and thus decide whether to accept or reject the request and provide adequate justification for its choice, whatever it will be the decision. The final answer will have to be provided by the European executive body within 6 months of the submission of the initiative.
This initiative is the fifth one registered by the Commission during 2023. According to the European Union website today, there are 10 initiatives that European citizens can directly support through the dedicated site.