The EESC issues between 160 and 190 opinions and information reports a year.
It also organises several annual initiatives and events with a focus on civil society and citizens’ participation such as the Civil Society Prize, the Civil Society Days, the Your Europe, Your Say youth plenary and the ECI Day.
The EESC brings together representatives from all areas of organised civil society, who give their independent advice on EU policies and legislation. The EESC's326 Members are organised into three groups: Employers, Workers and Various Interests.
The EESC has six sections, specialising in concrete topics of relevance to the citizens of the European Union, ranging from social to economic affairs, energy, environment, external relations or the internal market.
This year the ECI Day witnessed a new stage in the development of the European Citizens' Initiative. Two years after Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans announced the start of the revision process at the opening of ECI Day 2017, we were looking at the final text of the newly negotiated agreement on the ECI proposal. It had just been adopted at the European Parliament's plenary session in March and was the main focus of our programme.
Our participants had a chance to learn about the new regulation and its desired impact and practical changes. Equally important, we heard directly from First Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans about what would improve, how the ECI would benefit active citizens and where the European Commission itself placed this tool in its own hierarchy of consultation instruments and procedures. His presentation was followed by an open and vibrant Q&A session with the floor.
Moreover, this year's event was entitled Digital Voices, reflecting the ongoing changes in global trends in voting and citizens' active participation. The ECI is very often cited as an example of a tool with the potential to create a real sense of European identity and citizenship thanks to its impact on the EU's political agenda. It is intended to give Europeans the chance to cooperate and unite around a cause of common interest or concern in order to express their opinion, not only on election day but whenever they believe a new item needs to be placed on the EU's agenda. We strived to explore this potential in ECI Day 2019 in the particular context of the European elections. To this end, we analysed various aspects of the new proposal and compared the ECI and its agenda-setting potential with similar instruments in the Member States.
Expanding the ECI’s digital dimension: co-creating the best possible online collection system
With around 60% of signatures collected online, the digital dimension of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) needs to continuously evolve in order to reflect the realities of 21st century campaigning. The launch of the European Commission’s new online collection system in 2020 is an opportunity to make the system as easy to use and campaigner-friendly as possible. What can the Commission learn from Open ECI or other comparable individual online signature collection systems? How can the Commission adopt the best features of both the central and individual online collection systems to produce the best possible version in 2020? How can the new ECI Forum be incorporated into a new online collection system? This co-creation workshop will allow participants to discuss the constraints and/or challenges of the current online collection system provided by the Commission and offer suggestions and ideas for a new, improved version. The speakers will be Commission representatives responsible for designing the new system, digital experts and campaigning members of civil society.
This workshop is co-organised by Democracy International and European Citizen Action Service.
IMPORTANT! If you have registered for Workshop 1 on co-creating the best possible online collection system, please bring your own laptop/iPad/tablet for testing and feedback on various options and functionalities.
Learning from the Member States: what can the ECI and the EU learn from national agenda‑setting initiatives?
The ECI is the world’s first-ever instrument for digital, transnational and participatory democracy. However, it is not the only agenda-setting instrument for citizens in Europe. Citizens in many Member States have the possibility of bringing topics to the political agenda. For this, they use sometimes similar but also sometimes different methods to enlist the support of citizens and to influence policymaking - some of them with remarkable success. The ECI can learn from these good examples, and so can the EU itself.
This workshop is co-organised by Bertelsmann Stiftung, Democracy International and The ECI Campaign.
The ECI Day
The European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) is a welcome instrument for participatory democracy at European level. Introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, it entered into force in 2012 and allows Europeans to make legislative proposals and participate in decision-making by connecting directly with EU institutions. It is a chance for them to discuss and influence key policies and it sheds further light on the public's view of the EU's agenda and priorities.
The ECI Day is an important meeting place and platform where registered and future ECI organisers and stakeholders can exchange information and experiences and present their ECI and activities to the public. As in the past, stands were available for ECI organisers and conference partners. We also included stands run by various stakeholders to present the new initiatives accompanying the ongoing consultations on the proposal for a new ECI regulation.