The European Citizens' Initiative is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year and, although the long-awaited revision of the relevant regulation has not yet found its way into the European Commission's working plan, there are many reasons to celebrate!
The concept of European citizenship has been evolving for 60 years, ever since the Treaty of Rome made history by introducing the right to freedom of movement for workers and services. Over the years, the idea of European citizenship and the rights associated with it have evolved considerably – more freedoms were added, as well as the right to vote directly in European Parliament elections, stakeholder consultations and other tools of participatory democracy, such as the European Citizens' Initiative.
With this in mind, 2017's edition of the "ECI DAY: I participate!" hopes to bring to light the success stories that attest to the considerable evolution of the concept of European citizenship, as introduced by the Treaties, and the kind of policy-making that engages citizens, but also to identify where the democratic deficits lie. Our aim is to underline the value of active citizenship and personal involvement, as well as the importance of citizens' informed and conscious use of the democratic tools that are available.
The ECI has great potential, but also some limitations. It complements the political system with its direct, indirect and representative democratic rights. It should not be forgotten that the most important element of any healthy political system is educating active citizens and giving them a selection of tools with which to shape their lives, both locally and on a national level; in other words, to construct a political system along with people who believe that they can bring about change even via small actions in their neighbourhood.