The moribund European Citizens’ Initiative

Bruxelles, 22 gennaio 2018. Intervento di Barbara Spinelli nel corso della riunione della Commissione Affari Costituzionali (AFCO). 

Punto in agenda:

Iniziativa dei cittadini europei

  • Primo scambio di opinioni

Barbara Spinelli è intervenuta in qualità di relatore ombra, per il Gruppo GUE/NGL, della Relazione sulla Revisione del Regolamento (UE) 211/2011 riguardante l’iniziativa dei cittadini.

First of all, many thanks to György Schöpflin for trying to save an instrument of participative democracy which is moribund after so many failures. I share many suggestions he has made. I am convinced that the Commission’s proposal contains positive elements but remains by and large insufficient, and perpetuates some important flaws of the present system. In my opinion, our task in amending the proposal should be twofold: first, fully reflect the decisions by the Court of Justice on the scope of the ECIs and on the condition of their admissibility, and secondly, break the monopoly exercised by the Commission on the registering as well as the follow-up of the successful Initiatives.

On the first point: The judgement of the General Court on the ECI “Stop-TTIP”, and in other cases too, confirms that the conditions of admissibility are excessively restrictive, even from a legal point of view. Too often ECIs are refused because they “fall outside the framework of the Commission’s powers to submit a proposal for a legal act of the Union for the purpose of implementing the Treaties” (see article 11 TUE) The new regulation could give an exact definition of what is a ‘legal act’ in the Union, and how a Citizens’ Initiative can influence the legislative process, changing or even annulling it. It should confirm that a broader understanding of a legal act is necessary, such as including ‘preparatory acts’, when considering the registration of an ECI. Reference to Art 296(2) TFEU [1] would be beneficial regarding the understanding of a legal act. Given that the European Commission has the competence to propose changes to the Treaty (Art. 48 TUE) it should also be clarified that ECIs proposing changes to primary law are admissible.

Second point: the Commission should not have an exclusive monopoly on the ECIs. In January 2016 Juncker declared, during a hearing, that he “regretted that experience has shown that Citizens’ Initiatives did not always move European law or the European project forward, but tended instead to involve highly controversial and emotionally charged issues of greater interest to minorities than to the vast majority of EU citizens and, ultimately, generated Euro-scepticism”.

This very restrictive and oligarchic philosophy confirms we need to mitigate the Commission’s monopoly, which has contributed to the moribund state of the ECIs. Thematic restrictions are not foreseen in the Regulation of 2011, in Article 11 TEU and in Article 24 TFEU. Nor has the EC the legitimacy to refuse the registering of Citizens’ Initiatives, arbitrarily assessing them as being Euro-sceptical or reflecting the interests of a minority. As sentenced by the General Court, nothing justifies the Commission decision to define “destructive’” acts which do not contain the immediate and visible purpose of ‘implementing the Treaties’.

There are other proposals I would like to make: I will present them in future discussions. For example, I wonder if the monopoly I described – and also the Commission’s conflicts of interest, as highlighted by the recent refusal of the successful ECI demanding the ban of glyphosate – could be reduced, giving new powers to the Ombudsman in the admissibility decision, to the European Parliament in the debates on the Initiatives, and finally to the stakeholders in the organization of the online platform of discussion.


[1] Article 296: Where the Treaties do not specify the type of act to be adopted, the institutions shall select it on a case-by-case basis, in compliance with the applicable procedures and with the principle of proportionality.
Legal acts shall state the reasons on which they are based and shall refer to any proposals, initiatives, recommendations, requests or opinions required by the Treaties.
When considering draft legislative acts, the European Parliament and the Council shall refrain from adopting acts not provided for by the relevant legislative procedure in the area in question.

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