The European Citizens’ Initiative/Citizens House of EU Parliament

The European Citizens’ Initiative has been on the books since 2011, conceived as a means to help close the “democracy deficit” between EU citizens and its legislative bodies in Brussels—the EU Parliament, the European Commission, and the European Council.

Michael Cottakis

Credit: Ana Bustelo

Because of the high threshold of gathering signatures (one million from all 27 states in one year), the capacity of the law-initiating European Commission to ignore or reject initiatives as outside its “competence,” and the absence of a civil society organized on a European instead of national basis, European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) has so far largely failed as a mechanism of citizen engagement. Of the four initiatives that met the qualification criteria over the last eight years, none have seen any legislative follow up in the European Commission other than recommendations for further “evaluation.”

I recommend the following steps to make the ECI a viable proposition:

• Reducing the qualifying signature threshold to 750,000 over two years instead of 1 million over one year while reducing the complex registration requirement of “statements of support” to a simple e-signature system;

• Employing crowdsourcing platforms like Crowdcity for citizens to debate and decide on proposals to bring forward under ECI;

• Establishing civil society partnerships on a European level with pan-European NGOs that don’t rely on funding from national sources—a “single market” for NGOs;

• Enacting a “European Citizen’s Bill” that requires a debate and indicative vote in the EU Parliament once a certain threshold of signatures has been reached;

• Launching a pilot “citizen-institutional pact” that will have a demonstrated legislative outcome in areas of European Commission competence or will move the measure to a referendum once a higher threshold of signatures is reached;

• Ultimately, establishing a Permanent Citizens’ Assembly as the “second chamber” of the European Parliament


This article was originally published in the Berggruen Institute’s Renewing Democracy in the Digital Age Report