Mathew Lowry

I’m on record for thinking that European Citizens Initiatives (ECIs) could backfire, or, as Simon Blackley put it recently:

“the words ‘shoot’ and ‘foot’ spring to mind”

My reasoning a couple of months ago was that people would be set up to be disappointed by organisers of badly conceived ECIs, who would blame the EU as their unrealistic and unrealisable proposals get canned, leaving the EU with an ever-more-reinforced reputation for being aloof and out of touch.

Euroblogs

But that was before the Commission put forward its proposal for the ECI Regulation (site, pdf). Judging by the following reactions, the Commission clearly has no need for help in safeguarding their current reputation:

“is there really a need for that many security safeguards – admissibility check, security software, signatories’ ID numbers and address, authentication of statements of support by member states, etc?” Eurosocialist

“The proposals set a high bar for the Citizen’s Initiative … it seems strange with all these hoops to jump through, that when a petition is accepted, and the Commission says that it will produce a proposal based on it, there’s no time limit for the Commission to do that:” – The European Citizen

“Ainsi, tant la consultation publique que l’absence de suivi du Parlement européen sans même parler des nombreuses contraintes procédurières soulèvent une profonde inquiétude sur la volonté politique de la Commission européenne de vraiment permettre les initiatives citoyennes…lacomeuropeenne

“… the system, as currently drafted, is totally unworkable and I cannot see how any organisation or individual could possibly manage to comply with all of the criteria and then get an initiative accepted … with scant grasp of everyday realities, and absolutely no intention to do anything profound for the cause of European democracy, the Commission’s draft for the European Citizens’ Initiative seems to make the thing obsolete before it has even started.” – Jon Worth

Ouch. Particularly when you look at what’s at stake:

“… that’s the challenge for the Commission [to make} it as easy as possible for citizens to meet the criteria, and to be seen to be doing so. If it succeeds, then it can genuinely say that it is bringing Europe closer to the people. If not, then the EU remains that thing over there that imposes things on us in the popular perception. That’s not a challenge I’d want to see end in failure.” A Bit More Complicated

Of course, it would be disingenuous to say that all of the above reactions were uniformly negative – I’ve just quoted the best bits.

Getting the ECI right – making it usable while preventing it being abused – is a difficult balancing act, as any read of the original Green Paper makes abundantly clear. So I tend to agree with Carsten Berg:

some positive elements have been added to the proposed regulation based on input from a public consultation and hearing. However, other excessively restrictive requirements risk killing the ECI before it is born. A few changes could ensure that it is usable.” – ECI Campaign

Further reading

No blogtour is ever up to date or complete, but apologies must go first and foremost to the non-EN/FR blogs I’m not quoting, such as Macarena’s apparently excellent and award-winning La Oreja de Europa, as I’m simply too poorly educated to read them.

You can easily keep up to date on EU-oriented blogging, including browsing posts sorted by topic and language, via Bloggingportal.eu (follow on Twitter).

Talking of BloggingPortal, they recently ran an extraordinarily successful experiment to crowdsource the translation of an ECI text into over 20 languages in under 24 hours.

And while we’re talking of Twitter, a quick search for the #ECI hashtag brings up more negative feedback. As I type this (April 13), the latest stories about the ECI are both from the Young European Federalists:

56% of respondents to a jef.eu poll stated that they are not happy with the European Commission’s proposals …

These numerous procedural constraints raised deep concern about the political will of the European Commission to really allow citizen initiatives” – JEF

(update: there’s also a discussion on the European Parliament’s Facebook page, link via @JulienFrisch).

Finally, no curation effort like this (the c-word again! yeehah!) is complete without links to more classical news sources, so check out EU Observer‘s straightforward news article, and EurActiv.com‘s more in-depth view:

EU to kick off citizens’ initiative with tougher rules: A conspicuous amount of personal data will be required and specific conditions adhered to before citizens can propose legislation under the citizens’ initiative introduced by the Lisbon Treaty …”

An ECI for an improved ECI?

Given the uniform disappointment of the above socialmedia-savvy EU watchers, I find it odd that I could find only one (partial) reference to what seems the obvious next step – to launch an ECI to improve the ECI Regulation:

“Maybe it’s time for some citizen lobbying? Davygee on Twitter the other day suggested to set up a social media campaign to improve the Commission’s proposal. Who’s up for it? “- Eurosocialist

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Comments

  1. Regarding La Oreja de Europa… You should give Google Translate another chance, Mathew, they’ve vastly improved their database and technology in the last few months.

  2. Hi Mathew,

    Thx for your great post raising different concerns about the ECI Regulation as proposed by the Commission.

    Our 1-page Open Letter with different alternative solutations is on http://www.citizensinitiative.eu. Please feel warmly invited to spread the link in the blogosphere and forward it via Facebook, Twitter or mail to any political representatives you know as this could kick-off the social media campaign that people are asking for to lobby MEPs and governments…

  3. Hi JEF Europe, thanks for dropping by!

    I tweeted your link, but rather than publishing a pdf file (which needs a bit of proofreading, btw) and waiting for someone else to “kick-off a social media campaign”, why don’t you take the bull by the horns and launch an ECI to modify the ECI Regulation itself?

    It would be almost deliciously recursive, no? 😉

  4. Thanks Mathew, even if you didn’t understand any word of it 🙂 I am just trying to explain to the Spanish speakers the ECI bases and in adittion, to join the criticism on the Commission proposal…

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