Shape the European Citizens’ Initiative by contributing actively!

Posted by Dominique Ostyn on 28/06/11

Welcome to our online debate entitled:  ”Stakeholders’ Community to Federate European Citizens’ Initiatives”

Join the debate at the bottom of this post !

European Citizens’ Initiatives (ECI) as well as Political Parties’ debates and campaigns could play a key role in the running up to 2014 European Elections.

We can distinguish 3 main phases:

  • Phase 1 – April 2012: Official Launch of the European Citizens’ Initiative (TEU 2009, Art.11.4). EurActiv, together with Fondation EurActiv PoliTech and BlogActiv.eu, is playing a key role in making the ECI a success.
  • Phase 2 – 2013: European Political platforms leading to the choice of candidates and programmes will take into account successful ECIs, surveys and national elections.
  • Phase 3 – 1st half of 2014: European Elections’ Campaigns take off complementing European Parliament and parties communication.

The common denominator between these topics is the CITIZEN.

Given the very low threshold required to register and launch an ECI (‘at least 7 citizens, who are residents of at least 7 different Member States’), one can assume thousands of ECI will be submitted, but only tens or hundreds will make it through the whole process and force the European Commission to take a policy view.

Therefore, potential initiatives will need a one-stop-shop for building alliances amongst an heterogeneous community of stakeholders to meet, deliberate, rate, compare and in some cases join forces.

Prior to broaden the debates triggered by individual initiatives, there is a genuine opportunity to:

  • Shape the ECI official process, which is not 100% clear yet.
  • Empower a novel and neutral Initiactive.eu civil society-based platform to be launch this Autumn, which aims to provide online tools to build alliances across stakeholders in regard to campaigning for, proving of the achievement of the requested quorum of supporting statements and federating European Citizens Initiatives.
  • Gather momentum behind potentially successful initiatives and prepare for policy and Media impact.

BlogActiv.eu in partnership with Fondation EurActiv PoliTech and its core-partners is hosting this debate for early innovators and commentators, paving the grounds for Initiactive.eu platform to be publicly launched.

Please find below the main questions, we would like to have your views on during this Online Debate:

  • Question 1: Will the European Citizens’ Initiative transform the European democratic life and reduce the widening ‘Democratic Gap’ between its citizens and decision-makers?
  • Question 2: Will the European Citizens’ Initiative “bring Europe closer to its Citizens”?
  • Question 3: Will Internet and Social Media unleash the potential of the European Citizens’ Initiative?
  • Question 4: Will the ECI become a ‘participatory instrument’ for stakeholders to shape Europe’s Agenda?
  • Question 5: Will the ECI change EU decision-making balance of power? Are European political parties ready for the ECI? Will the ECI be an opportunity to create pan-European political parties in light of the 2014 European Elections?
  • Question 6: Can 1 million citizens be ignored in a democracy? Will the ECI lead to more frustration or be a success for Europe? What do YOU think? What are YOUR opinions?
  • Question 7: What are YOUR ECIs? How can YOU help US federating ECIs? How should Initiactive.eu look like? What are you expecting from such a platform?

 

Call for Initiatives and projects for the European eDemocracy Award 2011 with a focus on European Citizens’Initiative!

Posted by ODS_EU on 24/08/11

The European eDemocracy Award is a well-established and international annual award prepared and coordinated by Fondation EurActiv PoliTech in the framework of the World eGov Forum, organised by André Santini, former Minister, Deputy of Hauts-de-Seine, Mayor of Issy-les-Moulineaux, France.

The European eDemocracy Award 2011 will take place at Issy-les-Moulineaux (France) on 10-12 October 2011 and will recognize and reward the best European eDemocracy applications, projects or initiatives amongst EU27 countries. This year our focus will be on applications, initiatives and projects preparing for the European Citizens Initiative to be launched in 2012.

 

 

Would you like to apply? Send a short summary of the initiative in Word format and its link to  socialmedia at euractiv.com before 1 September 2011!

European Citizens Initiatives might stimulate more pan-European political debate

Posted by Dominique Ostyn on 18/07/11

Guest post by Eberhard Rhein, former Chef de Cabinet to the European Commission VP in charge of external relations and Director responsible for the Mediterrranean and Arab world.

See also Rhein.BlogActiv.eu

 

On April 1st 2012 an interesting innovation of the Lisbon Treaty will see the reality. At that date, the implementing legislation for Art. 14 EUT will enter into force and enable a minimum of one million citizens from at least seven member countries requesting the European Commission to launch legislative action in areas of common European interest that fall within the scope of its competence.

Despite the restrictive pre-conditions 10 initiatives are reportedly already under preparation. But we should not expect a flood of proposals to emerge from citizens initiatives:

  • Most EU legislation is too technical to lend itself easily to citizens initiatives. Only political, environmental, social and cultural areas offer some scope. But here the EU competence for legislative action is quite narrow.
  • The Commission will have to take a critical look at each request and check its common interest as well as its compatibility with the Treaty and existing legislation.

To unite one million signatures from seven member states will require citizens to connect by electronic networks and to use a common language. Organised groups across national borders like Greenpeace will have a competitive edge over private citizens.

It is therefore difficult to project the use citizens will make from this new instrument. Civic associations might wish to exploit it to make their views more widely known without hoping for quick or any legislative action. They might be happy to provoke a European debate on issues like climate age, nuclear and renewable energies, ageing, obesity, educational standards, youth unemployment or retirement age. There should be no lack of subjects to be picked up.

The new tool will no doubt give a boost to trans-national associations, on-line networks and the wider use of English as the European “lingua franca”.

The mere launch of an initiative is likely to provoke an EU-wide debate, provided the authors pick a sensitive issue of interest to many citizens throughout Europe. This would be positive and go beyond the initial objectives of the Treaty innovation.

But as a start, one or two NG0s should introduce a well-targeted, concrete proposal for amending or introducing legislation and try to obtain Commission backing for it.

 

What do you think?

BlogActiv.eu Bloggers Café: Shape the ECI by Contributing Early !

Posted by ODS_EU on 15/07/11

Join the debate at the bottom of this post !

Last Wednesday, BlogActiv.eu hosted its 1st BlogActiv Bloggers Café bringing together around 30 EU bloggers and European Citizens’ Initiative stakeholders.

This Bloggers Café presented the audience BlogActiv.eu new design and the Online Debate on “Stakeholders’ Community to Federate European Citizens’ Initiatives” in partnership with BlogActiv.eu.

The debate around the European Citizens’ Initiative has definitely started at this event.

After Daniel VAN LERBERGHE, Social Media Director and PoliTech Founder, has presented this online debate, many participants have shown a great interest in this “participatory instrument”, first of its kind in a transnational environment like the EU.

Now the Tweetosphere as well as the bloggosphere is engaged ! Show your engagement and interest by actively contributing online!

Further reading:

Daniel VAN LERBERGHE, “Shape the ECI by Contributing Early: Stakeholders’ Community Federating European Citizens’ Initiatives”, presentation (13 July 2011)

 

Giscard: Europe needs a people’s congress

Posted by Dominique Ostyn on 13/07/11

EU leaders are too focused on the short term of upcoming elections and lack a strategic vision to give new impetus to European integration and better connect with citizens, said Valéry Giscard d’Estaing in an interview with EurActiv.

Speaking on the margin of a conference on how to revitalise the European dream organised by French business school INSEAD and the European Executive Council (EEC), the former French president and chairman of the European Convention noted that European leaders are not following up on some of the goals enshrined in the EU Treaties.

What is needed is a real Congress of the People, in which European and national parliamentarians would come together to debate the state of the Union and address major challenges, said the French statesman.

It is high time to reconsider the lack of a European public space and bring the EU closer to its citizens, added Giscard, referring to growing fatigue with the European Union.

Read the full interview on EurActiv.com

 

Market Europe just like Coca-Cola, says scholar

Posted by Dominique Ostyn on 13/07/11

To forge a real sense of ownership and belonging, EU leaders and politicians should better market the European project, said the Indian dean of French business school INSEAD, Dipak C. Jain, in a recent interview with EurActiv. Having followed the American Dream and now seeking to live the European Dream, the Indian says that Europe’s citizens take the unity of the continent for granted and fail to “own it” or nurture it enough.

“Look, Coke and Pepsi, everyone in the world knows Coke and Pepsi, but every day they are still advertising. Somebody would ask that question: Why should Coke and Pepsi advertise? They are so well-known. But every day you still see their ads because that is the measure of communicating, of creating a sense of freshness,” Jain said.

People should be proud of what they have achieved, he said, adding that those achieving excellence abroad should come back and explain the uniqueness of the European model.

Read the full interview on EurActiv.com

 

Outcome of the ECI Seminar organised by the EESC “Various Interests” Group on 27 June 2011

Posted by Marine Jacob on 12/07/11

Join the debate here !

Mr. Jahier, President of Group III, launched the initiative to  organise a seminar on the European Citizens’ Initiative, the most innovative  and concrete transnational tool of the Lisbon Treaty. He stated that this seminar offered  the possibility to bring together forty participants from outside the “Schuman box”. Coming from nineteen European countries and representing a wide range of interests within civil society, they initiated the first steps towards creating networks amongst them. For Luca Jahier, “the ECI, after ten years of preparatory work, now represents a major opportunity for citizens to be active at EU level and the possibility to increase what we call the European public space”.  For Mrs. Sigmund, former President of the EESC, after having retraced the history of the ECI, she stated that ”the ECI is a communicational instrument between people from different countries with different languages and cultures, who are aiming at the same objectives which will allow them to develop a common cross-border identity that could lead them to see themselves as more European, rather than simply, French, Polish, Swedish or Romanian”.

From the point of view of the European Parliament, Mr. Häfner, MEP, said that the question of democracy is the key element of the period we are living in: “the ECI is a first contribution towards achieving direct citizen’s participation in the formulation of European policy, highlighting the desires and problems of the European citizens. It is an incredibly important step towards Europe but it is also of worldwide interest and in the coming months, people will see if it succeeds, or not.”  For him, the most difficult trap is the legal limitation of the ECI to the Commission’s competency, but without any possibility to amend the Treaty.

Nevertheless, for now the most important question raised during the Brainstorming exercise by Mr. Kaufman, was “how can we raise the consciousness of the majority of the citizens about this new right, in a way that would avoid that it becomes only a right of a wellinformed minority?” To tackle this question, various challenges were put forward regarding the actual process of implementation into national  legislation: the verification of the signatures, the setting-up of an online system, etc. Mr. Jahier considered that we should apply the KISS rule to this new instrument:  ”keep  it  simple,  stupid” in order to make it understandable to five hundred thousand citizens, speaking 23 different languages and involving 27 sovereign countries. These foreseen barriers, underline the fact that  ”the ECI will not change European policy in an instant, but it will represent an important development for the culture of democracy and political dialogue, in which the EESC has certainly a bridging role to play”, as Mr. Kaufmann said. For Mr. Häfner, considering that the whole task of the EESC is to give a European voice to civil society, the EESC could be a focal point

offering legal, technical and financial support to the potential ECI protagonists. Last but not least, he referred to the revision clause contained in the regulation, where the EESC could monitor the process, in order to highlight the successes and weaknesses of the implementation procedure, in the form of own-initiative opinions.  Mrs. O’Neill, VicePresident of Group III, quoting Mrs. Sigmund’s opinions on the ECI, recalled the role of the EESC as a facilitator and a mentor. Nevertheless, she pointed out various needs: a balance between these two above-mentioned functions; clarity in the process for those who are involved in an ECI (both protagonists and the EU Institutions), and interaction between the EESC and the other EU institutions. She concluded by saying that “in order to have a legal eligibility and standing, we need to take a long-term view in relation to effectiveness, so there is a lot of planning, a lot of coalition building, a lot of advanced preparation, and a political understanding and analysis to make the best of any ECI”.

In conclusion, as the complete success of the ECI should be ensured, Mr. Jahier underlined the fact that “we, Group III and the EESC, must play a role as a focal point, as we are the house of civil society. In this sense, we need to assume the responsibility to construct a civil society infrastructure by developing networks, creating alliances and improving communication.” In order to achieve this, Mr. Jahier proposed to organise a special event: “A European Citizens’ Initiative Day” around the beginning of April 2012, in at least 7 different Member States, with the objective of marking the occasion of the definitive entering in force of the ECI regulation in all the 27 Member States of the European Union.

Further reading:

  • For more information about the meeting, click here.
  • The direct web link to the EESC’s manual on the ECI, click here.


The European Citizens’ Initiative as a novel “participatory instrument” to empower citizens

Posted by Dominique Ostyn on 29/06/11

Join the debate here !

Question 1: Will the European Citizens’ Initiative transform the European democratic life and reduce the widening ‘Democratic Gap’ between its citizens and decision-makers?

The European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) will introduce a whole new form of participatory democracy to the EU. It is a major step forward in the democratic life of the Union. It’s a concrete example of bringing Europe closer to its citizens. And it will foster a cross border debate about what we are doing in Brussels and thus contribute, we hope, to the development of a real European public space,” Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, who is in charge of ECI at the European Commission said.

The European Citizens Initiative is one of the major innovations of the Treaty of Lisbon (TEU 2009, Art.11.4) opening up the door to “the first transnational instrument of participatory democracy in the world” (German Green MEP Gerald Häfner).

 

Question 2: Will the European Citizens’ Initiative “bring Europe closer to its Citizens”?

Since the adoption of the Treaty of Lisbon and the Citizens’ Initiative regulation 211/2011, many large NGOs and preeminent civil society actors have been successful in reaching over ‘1 Million EU citizens supports’ necessary to request new EU legislation from the European Commission on topics ranging from a “Europe free of GMOs” (Greenpeace) to “1 Million for Disability” (European Disability Forum) and “One Seat for Europe” (Members of European Parliament).

As the official launch of the Citizens’ Initiative has been set for 1 April 2012, these successful initiatives are remaining emblematic illustrations of the potential of this novel ‘participatory instrument’. In addition, the very low threshold required for launching an ECI (“at least seven persons who are residents of at least seven different member states”) and the ever-increasing usage of referenda and petitions (i.e. Scotland, Germany, Austria, United Kingdom or Switzerland) across EU governments at all levels (1991-2003: 301 referenda took place in Europe), one can predict from 1 April 2012 a large number of ECIs submissions by civil society.

By limiting the signature of the Citizens’ Initiative to natural persons, we wish to come back to the spirit of the proposal, which is aimed at citizens, all citizens and only citizens” French centre-right MEP Alain Lamassoure (European People’s Party) said.

While large NGOs have the means to organize large-scale collection of supports for their Citizens’ Initiatives, smaller organizations and European Citizens will still face tremendous obstacles and barriers to reach 1 million supports across Europe.

 

Question 3: Will Internet and Social Media unleash the potential of the European Citizens’ Initiative?

The bottom-up Revolution 2.0 that has inflamed the southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea is demonstrating to the world that Internet and Social Media have become the ultimate enablers to mobilize, engage, educate and organize change, as well as to enhance participatory representative democracy at local, national or European Union levels of governance. While Electronic Participation initiatives are mostly organised by Governments and Public Institutions with a more ‘top-down’ approach, Electronic Campaigns are generally led by civil society (i.e. French Referendum on EU Constitutional Treaty (2005), Avaaz.org’s online campaign calling on the UN Security Council to impose a no-fly zone on Libya (2011)) and political parties (i.e. UK National Elections (2001, 2005 and 2010) French Presidential Elections (2007) US Presidential Elections (2008), Spanish Legislative Elections (2008)) with a more ‘bottom-up’ approach, eCampaign have emerged as a powerful instrument to effectively mobilise, engage, educate and organize civil society around specific public affairs issues. In addition, eCampaigns have proven to have a multiplier effect in mass- engaging and mobilizing civil society as opposed to eParticipation.

Therefore, for the vast majority of European Civil Society, the success of the European Citizens Initiative, as the new ‘participatory instrument’ of the Lisbon Treaty to empower EU Citizens in the decision-making processes of the Union, will depend greatly on the ways stakeholders will use the power of social networks and media to build alliances and mobilize citizens across Europe to support their initiatives.

 

Question 4: Will the ECI become a ‘participatory instrument’ for stakeholders to shape Europe’s Agenda?

This (ECI) is a milestone in the development of European democracy. I warmly encourage the European public to make use of the European Citizens’ Initiative to bring matters of their concern to the top of the European agenda” said European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek.

By empowering civil society at large to shape Europe’s Agenda, the EU is offering a unique opportunity in the development of European democracy, but also unleash heterogeneous actors with conflicting interests in the ‘European Grand Chessboard’.

 

Question 5: Will the ECI change EU decision-making balance of power? Are European political parties ready for the ECI? Will the ECI be an opportunity to create pan-European political parties in light of the 2014 European Elections?

When reflecting on the ECI, one cannot forget European politics and its actors (i.e. Political Parties, Member States, Media and Opinion Makers, Local Governments, Interest groups, NGOs, citizens and EU Institutions). With the ECI, classical European policy actors will need to consider citizens not only as ‘voters’ but also as ‘grassroots influencers’.

As in any political arena, ‘building alliances’ amongst policy stakeholders is key to shape a political agenda and to create a vibrant European Public Sphere.

One million citizens cannot be ignored. A successful ECI must have consequences and lead to political decisions. Only when citizens realize that they are actually being heard will this instrument strengthen the democratic engagement of citizens. Otherwise it will simply lead to more frustration,” Carsten Berg, who is ECI Campaign Director at International Democracy.org, said.

 

Question 6: Can 1 million citizens be ignored in a democracy? Will the ECI lead to more frustration or be a success for Europe? What do YOU think? What are YOUR opinions?


Question 7: What are YOUR ECIs? How can YOU help US federating ECIs? How should InitiActiv.eu look like? What are you expecting from such a platform?

We would like you as a stakeholder or a citizen to contribute actively to our first pan-European online debate and to stay tune for the 2nd part: “The European Citizens’ Initiative Online Dimension”…

Join the debate here !

Shape the ECI by contributing early! rss

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