Since 1 April 2012, European citizens have enjoyed a new right that gives them a stronger voice: the European citizens' initiative (ECI). It was introduced in Article 11 of the Treaty of Lisbon, and gives citizens who succeed in collecting at least 1 million signatures from at least seven Member States the right to ask the European Commission to propose new European legislation or change existing laws (excluding primary law).
The general legal framework for the ECIs is laid down in Regulation (EU) 2019/788 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on the European citizens' initiative and its annexes.
The EESC, as an advocate for citizens' rights to participation and the voice of civil society, supported the idea of a citizens' initiative from the start and fought for a simple, understandable set of rules, as set out in the opinions it adopted on the ECI:
- Regulation on the European citizens' initiative, adopted on 14/3/2018
- The European citizens' initiative (review) (own-initiative opinion), adopted on 13/7/2016
- Citizens' initiative (own-initiative opinion), adopted on 14/7/2010
- The implementation of the Lisbon Treaty: participatory democracy and the citizens' initiative (Article 11), adopted on 17/3/2010
The EESC plays an active role in promoting the ECI and networking the stakeholders by organising an annual conference, the ECI Day, and other information seminars on the subject. It also takes the lead in interinstitutional cooperation between the competent EU administrations. In short, the EESC sees its role in two ways:
- The Committee as facilitator for emerging initiatives, providing a platform for dialogue and information, bringing together the organisers involved, or hosting meetings, in its role as the home of civil society;
- The Committee as institutional mentor, offering the Commission its assistance in the evaluation phase of an ECI, by jointly organising a public hearing and/or drawing up an opinion on a successful ECI in time for the Commission's evaluation, as part of its normal consultative role.
For more information on the ECI-related services at the EESC, please see our section on "ECI at the EESC" or our publication European Passport to Active Citizenship, or contact the ECI Secretariat via our contact form.
For complete information about the legal framework, and successful, ongoing and past initiatives, please visit the European Commission's official ECI website.