Apr 10, 2018 Conferences

*** Attention, this is an automatic translation ***

The “ICE Days” have been organized every year since 2012 – the date of entry into force of the Regulation on the European Citizen Initiative – by the European Economic and Social Committee and partners from civil society. They serve as a forum for discussions and allow contributions to be collected. They also make it possible to take stock of the European Citizen Initiatives that have been launched since the possibility was offered six years ago and on the problems encountered.
On April 10, the 5th ECI Day was held at the European Economic and Social Committee.
As it has done every year, FERPA participated in this meeting and intervened in the debate.

The Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 28 March 2018 on the implementation of EU Regulation 211/2011 on the citizens’ initiative was at the center of the presentations made by the speakers and of the information provided. It is the second of its kind (the previous one dating from March 2015).
Since April 2012, 70 initiatives have been submitted:
48 have been recorded
22 refused
And only 4 succeeded, that is to say that they collected the minimum million signatures requested
It is :
Right to Water, for a right to water and sanitation, initiated on May 10, 2012, with 1,659,543 signatures
One of us, on the legal protection of the human embryo, initiated on May 11, 2012, with 1,721,626 signatures
Stop vivisection, for the abolition of animal testing, initiated on June 22, 2012, with 1,326,807 signatures
Ban glyphosate and protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides, registered on January 25, 2017, with 1,070,865 signatures
Through these Initiatives that have been recorded (whether they have succeeded or not), 9 million citizens across the EU have become involved, as the first Vice-President of the Commission, Mr. Frans TIMMERMANS, in charge of this file
If we compare the two three-year periods (April 2012 to March 2015 and April 2015 to March 2018), we see two things:
First, a drop in registration requests: 19 for the second period against 51 for the first
But also, a drop in registration refusals: for the first period, there had been 20 whereas in the second period out of the 19 presented, only 2 had their registration refused.
During this meeting, the three major shortcomings unanimously noted during previous meetings were also mentioned:
Difficulties encountered by citizens in presenting legally admissible Initiatives (30% of registration requests rejected)
The cumbersome and complex process of collecting declarations of support for Initiative organizers, in the time allowed 1 year (hence the very low completion rate: 4 out of 48 registered!)
In general, the relatively limited effect that the initiatives have had so far and the little debate that they have aroused (which may explain the slowing of the enthusiasm initially aroused by the ICE)
Then were presented the few non-legislative modifications / improvements that have been adopted, to date, following the various meetings that took place in previous years:
The Commission notably provided free hosting servers for the organizers’ online collection systems
It has strengthened advisory and support services for potential organizers
It has decided to partially register certain Initiatives (which may explain the decline in refused registration requests)
All registration requests are now examined by the College of Commissioners.
The publication of press releases by the Commission which aims to increase the visibility of the recordings.
The main lines of the reforms proposed by the Commission with regard to the ICE Regulation were then presented by 2019, for application after debate in Parliament and in the Council in 2020.
In addition to the improvements already made and mentioned above, four new modifications should be made:
Lower the age required to support an ECI to 16 (which is already the legal voting age in Austria), to try to involve young people more;
Reduce the amount of data required (two forms to be completed by the organizers, instead of thirteen currently)
Improve the monitoring process, in order to encourage a constructive debate before the European Commission’s response, in particular, by setting up a “collaborative platform” to better advise the organizers
Inform and monitor citizens of the initiatives they have supported.

In conclusion: it appears that there is still a lot to do, particularly in terms of mobilization,
Particularly at the level of member states because this is where the directives are implemented and it is the Council which, upstream decides to put them on its agenda and adopts them
But also at the level of citizens to make their voices heard and to bring about a real “participative democracy” at European level. As the President of the European Economic and Social Committee said: “Now is not the time for discouragement but for the will to seize this instrument that is the ECI to make it live! ”