European Citizens' Initiative Day opens a new chapter in EU citizen participation

"The Commission has the moral obligation to react to ECIs", said First Vice-President Frans Timmermans

Christophe Lefevre, EESC member and president of the ECI ad-hoc group, opened the 8th European Citizens' Initiative Day on 2 April.

Laura Sullivan, founder of WeMove.EU, who delivered the keynote speech, said that digital activism could mobilise larger groups. It would also help to show evidence of what we share and our common cause, and help to build more solidarity and engagement across Europe. "We have more in common than we are often aware of", she stated.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans presented the new rules for European Citizens' Initiatives. In his speech, the Commissioner raised the political dimension of the ECI: "There is no obligation to give the promoters of an ECI what they want. In my view, however, there is a moral and political obligation for the Commission to react and engage in political debate. People expect us to be clear about what should be done and what cannot be done."

The challenge for the next European Commission was to assess how digitalisation and democracy work together in an effective way, including by reinventing democracy as we know it and adapting it to the kind of world in which people now live.

"Digitial Voices" was the theme of the 2019 ECI Day. Digital natives no longer wait for elections to express their preferences; they voice their concerns all the time and at every opportunity.

"Denying what is voiced in the digital world would be ignorant and even stupid", said Christophe Lefevre, "but EU institutions and governments must be wise about how to adapt to this trend and have a particular responsibility regarding correct information and upholding ethical principles and respect." (sma)