Basics of a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI)

What is is and how it works

According to Article 11(4) of the Treaty on the European Union,

“Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the European Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties.
The procedures and conditions required for such a citizens’ initiative shall be determined in accordance with the first paragraph of Article 24 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.”
Plain English translation: at least one million citizens may petition the Commission to request a legal act if the Commission has such power and if the citizens think it’s necessary in order to implement the TEU and TFEU.

This is the basis for the EU Citizens’ Initiative. The secondary legal basis that this article references is the more specific Article 24 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which states that:

“The European Parliament and the Council, acting by means of regulations in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, shall adopt the provisions for the procedures and conditions required for a citizens’ initiative within the meaning of Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union, including the minimum number of Member States from which such citizens must come.”
Plain English translation: The EU Parliament and Council of the EU shall pass a regulation explaining the detailed procedure to carry out a citizens’ initiative.

The result of that is Regulation (EU) No 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2011 on the citizens’ initiative (Consolidated version 01/07/2014) and this document provides all the technical details regarding how this thing works.

Screenshot of webpage: http://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/public/how-it-works/committee

How does it work?

Essentially, here’s what the most basic information is:

  • To start one, you need 7 organizers who are all EU Citizens, old enough to vote (but they don’t have to be registered to vote) and live in 7 different Member States.
  • To succeed, you need to collect one million signatures from EU citizens who are residents of at least 7 Member States in a span of 12 months. But each country has a different minimum number of signatures that it needs to collect in order to count, so if you don’t reach the minimum in seven different countries, then it doesn’t matter if you add everything up to more than one million.
  • A successful initiative could result in the Commission proposing a new legislation which then gets to go through legislative procedure (either ordinary or special)

But this is only the most basic information about initiatives and there is a lot more than needs to be done before, during and after the steps mentioned here. The purpose of this article is to have a simple introduction that informs you what these are and why you should care about this European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI).