ECI Day calls for genuine citizen participation

Six years after the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) was introduced, and following repeated constructive criticism and calls for its improvement, particularly from the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and other institutions, the European Commission has finally proposed changes to this important tool of participative democracy.

At the 7th EESC ECI Day, First Vice-President of the Commission Frans Timmermans presented the main changes, including lowering the age from 18 to 16 years and simplifying data requirements for signing initiatives.

The ECI Day focused on Working together, which aimed to highlight the value of cooperation and shared responsibility in promoting active citizenship.

EESC President Georges Dassis welcomed the Commission's initiative as a leap forwards as regards the simplification and reduction of the bureaucratic burden, but regretted that the follow-up had not been reinforced in the current proposal. "Successful European citizen initiatives must trigger dialogue and proper follow-up at EU level", he urged.

In his keynote speech, Luca Jahier, the new president of the EESC, emphasised the importance of Article 11 TEU, which imposed a legal obligation on the European institutions to consult and engage in dialogue with civil society and citizens. "A well-functioning ECI should empower citizens; it should give them a voice, a sense of belonging and identity, helping to rebuild trust and to rediscover the solidarity of the European project. The EESC has therefore always been very vocal about the ECI."

In three workshops, participants consistently expressed their wish for the EU to become more participatory and called on European and national leaders to listen to their citizens. (sma)