The European Citizen Action Service ECAS in collaboration with European Economic and Social Committee hosted a conference on the reform of the Legal Framework for the European Citizens’ Initiative at the EESC. The event was attended by citizens and organisations interested in the ECI process, many included those who had presented the original concept , and those who were now proceeding with ECIs or performing research on the process.
ECAS presented their report on the legal analyzes of the refused ECIs, elaborated by ECAS in collaboration with Freshfields. The aim of the conference was to evaluate the Legal framework of the European Citizens’ Initiative in light of the past experiences. In this framework, I was invited to share my experience in running one of the first ECIs as well as share future plans of the EECS ECI Ad-hoc group.
I presented the process and challenges associated with conducting an ECI and why reform was essential if we were to continue with this valuable process and better engage citizens. I highlighted the hypocrisy in the EU Commission where the ECI is not openly promoted by any Commissioner , and where the selection of ECIs in accordance with the Commission’s work are now proving controversial – right to water and Stop TTIP being the current examples.
The ECI tool should be promoted as one of engagement with citizens, an process for transparent collaboration and discussion , and a process for a better functioning democracy. Overall it is a process of trust. Hence the EESC adhoc group would be working with civil society organisations reviewing ECI processes and those conducting ECIs. It will establish a database of contacts and networks as well as lobby for a helpdesk that is adequately financed and staffed. The EESC will also showcase ECIs which achieve a certain threshold at its plenary.
The organisers produced a full report which can be found at http://www.citizens-initiative.eu/reform-or-die/ . Further information on the ECI process, those who have applied to conduct ECIs and their status can be found at www.ecas.org
I believe that having had the practical experience of conducting an ECI, despite the fact that it was not successful, has given me invaluable insight into the process and the challenges associated with achieving the objectives. I therefore congratulate any organisations who have attempted this process and request the Commission to consider seriously the benefits of supporting this initiative in a more proactive way.
Group 1 Secretariat
SOC Section president