June 20, 2011
“The Lisbon Treaty introduces the idea of the citizens’ initiative, whereby citizens will have the opportunity to call on the Commission to bring forward new policy proposals if they have the support of 1 million people from a significant number of EU Member States”
(Art. 11.4, Lisbon Treaty)
Officially launched by the European Commissions, Council and Parliament on 1st April 2012, the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) is opening up the European Union (EU) policy process to the European citizens and civil society. As such, it provides a once in a generation opportunity to transform European democratic life and to reduce the widening ‘Democratic Deficit’ affecting our modern democracies at every level of government. Just as the EURO and ERASMUS, the ECI offers a tangible focus and symbol of what it means to be European, however, it will only be a success, if Europe engages stakeholders and citizens to create new kinds of co-operation amongst them and the EU towards an emerging active European Public Sphere (EC President José Manuel Barroso, “Political Guidelines for the next Commission”, 2009).
This ambitious and challenging instrument of participatory democracy can benefit from the transforming power of the Internet and Social Media – with regard to campaigning for, proving of the achievement of the requested quorum of supporting statements (i.e. 1 million people from a significant number of Member States), federating ECIs and building necessary alliances between heterogeneous stakeholders (citizens, NGOs, decision-makers and policy-makers, opinion makers) across Europe; with regard to accompanying electronic Deliberation formats and web-based information services that provide for interactivity as well as transparency in relation to processing of and follow up to the outcomes of successful ECIs.
A 3-Dimensional debate:
- The European Citizens’ Initiative as a novel “participatory instrument” of the Lisbon Treaty to empower European Union Citizens in the decision-making processes of the Union: In his “Political Guidelines for the next Commission” President Barroso identifies reinforcing EU citizenship and participation as key challenges facing the EU. Is Europe in phase with citizens’ expectations? Will the ECI transform the European democratic life and reduce the widening ‘Democratic Deficit’ between citizens and decision-makers?
- The European Citizens’ Initiative Online Dimension: 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 EU levels of governance. Will the success of the ECI depend greatly on the ways EU Institutions and civil society will use Internet and Social Media to unleash the ECI potential? How can this ambitious and challenging instrument of participatory democracy benefit from the transforming power of the Internet and Social Media?
- An Emerging European public sphere: An active European public sphere includes and requires an active citizenry endowed with political rights as well as with a sense of belonging and identity, which motivates engagement and political concern. European citizenship cannot be based in common language and traditions but only in a sense of belonging to a mere political community with shared values and rights. What are the challenges and opportunities offer by the ECI to strengthen European democracy and citizenship?
- EurActiv.com Linksdossier on the European Citizens’ Initiative
- The European Commission ECI portal
- Citizens’ Initiative regulation 211/201
- Political Guidelines for the Next Commission (2009)
- The Campaign for a Citizen-friendly European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI)
- EMPOWER Project: Empowering citizens to influence the decision-making and policy formulation on environmental issues
- EuroPetition Project
- MOMENTUM: Monitoring, Coordinating and Promoting the European Union eParticipation Projects and Initiatives
- European Commission eParticipation Preparatory Action (2006 – 2010)
- PEP-NET: Pan European eParticipation Network
- Council of Europe, Recommendation CM/Rec(2009)1 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on electronic democracy (e-democracy), 2009
- Scottish Parliament ePetition
- German Bundestag ePetition
- Austrian Citizens’ Initiative
- Number 10 ePetition (UK)
- Geneva Canton Online Voting
Author : Dominique Ostyn