Shortly before the plenary vote, the three citizens’ organisations delivered 76,397 signatures by people from all across Europe to the Members of the European Parliament. The petition called for a reform of the ECI to make it more citizen-focussed, accessible and politically powerful.
The European Parliament adopted the report with a strong majority, including many of Democracy International’s reform proposals. This is a major step in building more democracy in Europe. However, one major issue remains unsolved: also in the future, European Citizens' Initiatives are restricted to secondary law, thus excluding right from the start all initiatives that propose changes to the founding Treaties of the EU. Considering the high complexity of the Treaties, which regulate almost every aspect of EU policy, the decision to reject treaty-amending ECIs is a defeat for all citizens that want to engage more strongly in Europe.
The Parliament will now hand over its report to the European Commission, urging it to initiate a reform of the regulation governing the implementation of the EU Citizens’ Initiative. Democracy International will continue to put pressure to make sure that the ECI becomes a real tool of participation. Our next step of the campaign will focus on convincing the Commission and Council A final agreement between the Parliament, Commission and Council regarding the revision of the European Citizens' Initiative will most likely take place in 2016.
While being an important tool for citizens to shape the agenda, the ECI must be seen as just the first step toward greater participatory democracy in Europe. More tools, more innovation, and mostly more political will will be needed to offer citizens greater opportunities to take part in shaping European politics. In the longer term the ECI should be upgraded to include European-wide referenda.