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Strengthening democratic participation in EU decision-making: the new "European Citizens' Initiative"

March 31, 2012 11:15 AM
By Bill Newton Dunn MEP
Originally published by East Midlands Liberal Democrats

Anybody who has felt so strongly about a European issue that they wanted to raise it in the European Parliament, and potentially change an EU law, can now do so online.

From this Sunday (April 1st) the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) comes into force. It will allow popular campaigns to bring proposals before the EU's two legislative chambers, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, if at least one million signatures are collected from at least seven EU Member States.

The ECI is a new tool introduced by the Lisbon Treaty to give people the right to directly participate in the European decision making process and to strengthen democracy at the EU level.

MEP for the East Midlands, Liberal Democrat Bill Newton Dunn, thinks the initiative will give his constituents a strong means to engage directly with EU law-makers:

"The European Citizens' initiative is a great chance for people in the East Midlands to get in touch with others from across Europe in order to push an important issue onto the EU agenda.

"Collecting over one million signatures in seven different EU countries might seem like a very challenging campaign, but in the age of internet and social media it is completely achievable.

"I think it will be a great way to find like minded people across Europe and to spark a public debate on an issue you deeply care about."

In order to launch an ECI, it is necessary to form a committee of at least seven people from across seven EU Member States which can then be registered on the central ECI website managed by the European Commission . The proposal must fall within EU competencies and must not be judged to be 'manifestly contrary' to EU values. Once the proposal is cleared by the Commission, there is a one year deadline to collect the one million signatures from across seven EU Member States.