Reflections on a decade of the European Citizens’ Initiative

Agenda initiatives are democratic instruments allowing individuals to request legislative action following a signature gathering exercise. They first emerged in several European Constitutions in the interwar period and spread rapidly from the late 1980s in mainly European & Latin American countries. A transnational variant was established at EU level (ECI) by the Lisbon Treaty. Bold and often hyperbolic claims about the contribution it could make to EU democracy were commonplace from when it was first proposed. The ECI will have been in operation for a decade in April 2022, offering a timely opportunity to assess practice pertaining to this unique agenda initiative. This paper argues that although much criticised, notably by legal scholars, the ECI has made a valuable contribution to the EU’s democratic landscape by offering citizens a bottom-up mechanism for engaging with the EU, and with each other, and the value of which goes beyond its potential to achieve legislative outputs.