What is a European Citizens` Initiative (ECI)?

A group of young and active people have launched the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) `More than education.` You may have heard about this, but what exactly is an ECI? A citizens initiative directly invites the European Commission to propose European legislation. An ECI can only be successful if it concerns a field in which the EU is competent to legislate. The European Commission is not obliged to propose legislative measures, the ECI only provides a recommendation backed up by European citizens.

Citizens’ initiatives cannot be launched by organisations, but they can promote or support initiatives, like AEGEE-Europe is currently doing with the ECI on civic education. They should do so with full transparency. You can imagine, this ECI is an important tool for civic involvement in EU  policy-making. But it is not that easy to turn an ECI into a success. The formal requirements for an ECI are difficult to fulfill. First of all, you need at least one million signatures from EU citizens, coming from at least 7 out of 28 member states. Secondly, to launch a citizens’ initiative, citizens must form a “citizens’ committee” composed of at least 7 EU citizens being resident in at least 7 different member states. However, the structure of AEGEE-Europe with locals in almost all the EU member states makes it less difficult to fulfil this requirement. The citizens’ committee must register its ECI before starting to collect statements of support from citizens. Once the registration is confirmed, organisers have one year to collect signatures.

The Commission will examine the initiative if it is supported by one million EU citizens. Within 3 months after receiving the initiative:

Commission representatives will meet the organisers so they can explain in detail the issues raised in their initiative.

the organisers will have the opportunity to present their initiative at a public hearing in the European Parliament.

the Commission will adopt a formal response spelling out what action it will propose in response to the citizens’ initiative, if any, and the reasons for doing or not doing so. This response will be published in all official EU languages.

The Commission is not obliged to propose legislation as a result of an initiative. If it decides to propose a legislative act, the normal legislative procedure will be followed.