Tag Archives: petitions

European Citizens’ Initiative

The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), has been described by many as ‘first-ever experiment in transnational participatory democracy’ and as such is, of course, particularly interesting to us and our project.

You can see the overview of first attempted and successful ECIs in this presentation by Dace Akule of Latvian Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS:

Up until now, two routes have been available to the citizens of the European Union (EU) to influence the legislative process on the EU level – petitioning the European Parliament or contacting the EU Ombudsman.  ECI would for the first time allow them to address the European Commission with their proposals.

ECI is meant to be a new participatory tool for Europeans to engage with the European Commission and propose legislation. Created in sync with the 11.4 of the Lisbon Treaty, it differs from petitioning significantly. Here is how this is explained, point to point in the official website of the ECI:

  • Petitions can be submitted by citizens of the Union as well by natural or legal persons residing or having their registered office in a member state, either individually or in association with other citizens or persons.

  • Petitions must concern matters which come within the Union’s fields of activity and which directly affect the petitioner(s) (e.g. a complaint).

  • Petitions are addressed to the European Parliament in its role as the direct representative of citizens at EU level.

  • With petitions, there are no formal requirements for a minimum number of signatures or spread of support in multiple EU countries.

  • The citizens’ initiative, on the other hand, enables citizens to call directly on the Commission to bring forward new proposals for legal acts – if they have sufficient support across the EU.

The initiative has to be backed by one million EU citizens minimum and those have to come from at least 7 of the member states ( important to note that we are not talking about the nationality of the citizens, just the country of residence).

The initiative, its usefulness and capabilities are still being discussed, different opinions are being raised and citizens of the EU are already submitting their initiatives to the platform (such as the obsolete initiative on Ecocide and the open initiative ‘One of us‘, for example). It remains, however, to be seen, how this platform will develop and function.

And even so,  it has to be noted that this a big step towards a more inclusive, participatory democracy on EU level and, sure, it won’t make the democratic deficit disappear in a heartbeat, but it will at least be a turn in the right direction.

The guide to the initiative can be downloaded here:

http://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/public/guide

The Regulation on ECI can be found here:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:065:0001:0022:EN:PDF

Technical specifications of the ECI can be found here:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:301:0003:0009:EN:PDF

Maroš Šefčovič on ECI:

http://presseuropa.com/press-releases/maros-sefcovic-vice-president-of-the-european-commission-responsible-for-interinstitutional-relations-and-administration-ecis-and-petitions-giving-citizens-a-voice-meeting-in-the-european-parliament-committee-of-the-petitions-brussels-8-may-2

[Indra]

Advertisements
Tagged

Public Initiative Platform ‘Mana Balss’

http://manabalss.lv/

This free of charge social initiative platform “Mana Balss” ( ‘My voice’ – Latvian transl.) allows for people to submit their initiatives and thus attempt to improve the general situation in the country and ‘troubleshoot’ by addressing issues they find worrying.

The basic procedure is intended to run the following way:

1)      any citizen of the Republic of Latvia (16 years of age and above) submits an initiative (after authorizing through a state-registered online bank) to the online platform http://manabalss.lv/

2)      you submit an initiative, stating what it is that you want to change, how you propose to go about achieving it and why this initiative is essential for others to support;

3)      Within 24 hours your initiative will get feedback from a group of experts (if they are available, if not – go to step 4) who will let you know what’s still missing and how it should/could be improved;

4)      Your initiative will then be ‘transformed’ into a link and it is up to you then to gather 100 signatures (via sharing the link on Twitter, Facebook etc) in order to confirm that the initiative that you are proposing actually matters to others, too;

5)      After this has happened, the lawyers of the platform (note: these people are volunteers, so it might take time) will check your proposal in order to make sure that it is legally applicable, isn’t unconstitutional and would serve as an actual solution to the given problem;

6)      Then, once this is confirmed, 10 000 signatures have to be gathered for the initiative to be brought to the Parliament for discussion (we will describe the unusual petitioning procedure in place in Latvia in some later post!)  It is then, of course, down to their discretion to make a decision whether the initiative passes or not.

It is the straightforward manner in which the initiative allows the general public to make a real difference  (essentially, three relatively simple steps) that captivates attention the most. It is normally assumed that bringing an issue to the government for discussion is a complex endeavor and can be achieved only by jumping through bureaucratic hula hoops or alternatively making lots of noise in the public realm. This initiative provides a much more comprehensible way of participation and hence (or so the hope is) will eventually increase civic activism in the society.

Here is a snapshot of how the website looks like:

manabalss_screenshot

And for those of our followers who are Latvian-speakers, here is a promotional video of the platform (english subtitles are should be avilable on youtube):

However, echoing criticisms of the  European Citizens Initiative, where critics have raised concerns concerning initiative turning into mob rule, it could, in theory, be argued that no serious, well – researched proposals will come out this. In a way manabalss.lv both confirms and disproves this argument: even if new initiatives are submitted almost daily, not that many of them get to the 6th stage when they become public. And, when they are, they are usually quite well developed (though there have been some exceptions). But it has turned out to be challenge to find volunteers in order to crowdsource the “quality – control”.

You can see the short history and overview of the most popular initiatives on manabalss.lv in the presentation by Iveta here:

Now, we expect, more than hope, that the number of creative and purposeful initiatives proposed on the platform will increase substantially in the near future and that, with this channel being there, civic participation rates will go up as a result.

[Indra, with small additions from Iveta]

Tagged