The ECI as a tool for participatory democracy: a comparative analysys

This proposal aims at identifying and assessing the structural elements of a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) from a critical perspective. The presentation will largely draw on the existing literature on the ECI and on the results of a comparative analysis between the latter and similar agenda-setting mechanisms in force at state level.Only EU member states have been taken into consideration on this occasion. Since some scholars has pointed out that national constitutional sytems and institutions are not a suitable benchmark for appraising EU legal instruments, the respective national constitutional contexts will be compactly displayed too. Thus the analysis will offer a more eligible legal and political standard of comparison for the assessment of the ECI as an instrument of participatory democracy, and help to distinguish more accurately between those aspects of the ECI that facilitate citizen’s participation in political issues and those in which there is room for improvement.

ECI and the question of participation

This presentation will concentrate on the question of participation and will thus address the “who’s” of the ECI. It will adapt two inter-related perspectives: a descriptive and analytical. I will look at the main actors involved in an ECI: the initiators, Commission, Parliament, and in cases of an appeal, Ombudsman and the CJEU. However, owing to the in-depth analysis of institutions provided in other presentations, the role, responsibilities and potential reform of the institutions will be addressed from a holistic perspective. Instead, this presentation will provide a more in-depth discussion of the nature, rights and responsibilities of organizers. It will also concentrate on how these have developed in recent years and how such responsibilities change at every stage of the ECI. Second, and against this backdrop, the presentation will introduce the broader concepts of democracy the creators of the ECI have envisaged.

Thinking European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) inside the box: how can we improve this participatory mechanism without amending the European Treaties?

Despite the efforts to improve the usage of the ECI, experience on the side of organizers and reports from EU institutions still reveal several flaws in the ECI, what raises legit doubts concerning the capacity of the new rules to truly improve ECI’s political impact and avoid that this participative democracy tool can become obsolete. In this context, the main aim of this presentation is to analyze, from a critical perspective, how it is possible to improve ECI and its potential without the need of introducing amendments to the European Treaties. To this purpose, we will largely rely on the existing literature on the ECI and several recommendations formulated by civil society organizations and other stakeholders. Different arguments will be analyzed and evaluated through the comparison of their strong points, weak points, opportunities and threats. A set of possible measures in order to achieve a more effective development of the mechanism will be presented.

The Initiative Role of the Commission

Usually, legislative acts in the European Union may only be adopted on the basis of a Commission proposal. Therefore, the European Citizens' Initiative's primary purpose is to call on the Commission to propose legislation on specific matters of concern within its competence. However, the absence of a legal obligation for the Commission to propose new legislation or adopt any concrete line of action leads to the question on the Commission's initiative role. This presentation analyses such initiative role of the Commission in the six answered initiatives regarding fundamental, environmental, and cultural rights: End the cage age, ban glyphosate, minority SafePack, stop vivisection, right to water, and one of us. This presentation will provide an assessment of the measures adopted by the Commission, specifically on the legislative actions proposed on the referred initiatives. To do so, it will adopt a mixed-method based on hermeneutic, institutional, and a dogmatic legal approach.