Citizens are at the heart of the European project. This is the starting point for this opinion on the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), which was introduced under the Lisbon Treaty. According to the rapporteur, it should be seen as means to answer the European democratic deficit, bridge the gap between citizens and European policy and to stimulate a Europe-wide debate on issues of concern to European citizens. The opinion notes the limited number of successful ECIs – only three initiatives have so far achieved the goal of one million signatures – and calls into question the legalistic and restrictive approach taken by the European Commission. It states “the manner in which the Commission will give follow-up to those successful initiatives will largely determine whether the European citizens will still attach importance to the Citizens’ Initiative as a participative model”. To improve the procedure, the rapporteur suggests an ad hoc impartial “wise people committee” who would check the admissibility, avoiding the Commission being judge and jury. He would also like to see a stronger role for the European Parliament. Notwithstanding the possibilities presented under the ECI, Van den Brande also empahsises the role of local and regional authorities in bringing the EU closer to citizens, in a spirit of multi-level governance.

 

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