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.

How to save the European Citizens’ Initiative


How to save the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) – Parliament to vote on Schöpflin report

Ahead of tomorrow’s vote on the Schöpflin report on the European Citizens’ Initiative, Italian GUE/NGL MEP Barbara Spinelli outlined her views for and against the report and why it is important to save the ECI:

“The European Union discovered participatory democracy after a crisis: Ireland’s ‘No’ vote to the Treaty of Nice in 2001. The European Citizens’ Initiative, that is now part of the Treaties, was a response to that crisis. However, the crisis is getting worse and participatory democracy is moribund: no legislative proposals have followed successful Initiatives.

“Although the Schöpflin report is far from perfect, because it does not allow modifications to the Treaties, it was adopted unanimously in the Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) Committee since it greatly eases the legal follow-up to the Initiatives.

“But I call on this Parliament to reject amendment 4 to paragraph 30 which will transform the ECI into a bow without arrows. This amendment urges the Commission to start preparing a legal act on successful ECIs but only after issuing a positive opinion.

“Up until now 29 initiatives out of 49 submissions have gone through the process of registration and only three of them have reached the 1 million signature threshold. Only the ECI Right2Water received a positive – although vague – communication from the European Commission. None of the successful ECIs has led to legislative follow-up.  In addition, Commissioner Malmström, answering petitions submitted against the TTIP, stated recently: ‘I do not take my mandate from the European people’. If that is the case, I am curious to know from whom does the European Commission take its mandate?”

Si veda anche

Come salvare l’Iniziativa cittadina europea

Come salvare l’Iniziativa cittadina europea

Sessione Plenaria di Strasburgo, 26 ottobre 2015.

Intervento di Barbara Spinelli, in qualità di Relatore ombra per il Gruppo GUE/NGL della Relazione sull’Iniziativa dei Cittadini Europei

Punto in Agenda: Discussione sulla Relazione sull’Iniziativa dei Cittadini Europei

Relatore: György Schöpflin (PPE – Ungheria)

Presenza ed intervento per conto della Commissione europea: Frans Timmermans, Primo Vicepresidente della Commissione/Commissario per Qualità della legislazione, relazioni interistituzionali, Stato di diritto e Carta dei diritti fondamentali

Come salvare l’Iniziativa cittadina europea (ICE)

L’Unione ha scoperto la democrazia partecipativa dopo una crisi: il No dell’Irlanda al Trattato di Nizza. L’Iniziativa cittadina, iscritta ora nei Trattati, fu una risposta a quella crisi. Oggi la crisi s’è aggravata, e la democrazia partecipativa è moribonda: nessuna Iniziativa che ha raccolto le firme necessarie è stata seguita da azioni legali.

Il rapporto Schöpflin non è perfetto, non permette purtroppo di modificare i Trattati, ma ha raccolto l’unanimità della Commissione AFCO perché facilita di molto il follow-up giuridico delle Iniziative.

Chiedo solennemente a questo Parlamento di non votare l’emendamento 4 al paragrafo 30, che trasformerebbe l’ICE in un arco senza frecce. Lo chiedo specialmente ai socialisti, che l’hanno presentato. L’emendamento esige che la Commissione proponga un atto legislativo a favore di un’ICE coronata di successo, ma solo dopo aver emesso un parere positivo. Fino ad oggi 29 iniziative su 49 sono state ammesse, tre hanno superato la soglia delle firme, solo il diritto all’acqua ha ottenuto un vago parere positivo, nessuna ha avuto seguito.

Il Commissario Malmström ha risposto alle petizioni contro il TTIP: ”Non ricevo il mio mandato dal popolo europeo”. Vorrei sapere a questo punto, e lo chiedo al vicepresidente Timmermans che è qui con noi, da chi la Commissione riceva il proprio mandato.

Si veda anche

Open letter from ECI organisers to the European Parliament