(Nov. 19, 2009) On November 11, 2009, the European Commission launched a public consultation process by adopting a Green Paper on a European Citizens' Initiative (ECI). (Green Paper on a European Citizens' Initiative, COM(2009) 622/3, available at http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/secretariat_general/citizens_initiative/docs/
com_2009_622_en.pdf.) The ECI is a new right introduced through the Lisbon Treaty as a step to bridge the gap between European Union citizens and EU institutions. The Lisbon Treaty will enter into force on December 1, 2009. (Theresa Papademetriou, European Union: Lisbon Treaty Coming into Force, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR, Nov. 10, 2009, available at //www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_news?disp3_l205401663_text.) Once the EU institutions adopt implementing legislation on the ECI, it will enable the public to participate in the democratic process by giving the citizens the power to ask the European Commission to introduce new legislation.
The Green Paper discusses the key features of the ECI and clarifies the legal, administrative, and practical issues that are raised. Two major features of the ECI are the following:
- The citizens signing a petition must be nationals of a significant number of the EU Member States; and
- A petition must be signed by at least one million citizens.
As the Commission explained in the Green Paper, the reason that the nationals must come from “a significant number of Member States” is to ensure that the ECI will truly represent the interests of the Union as a whole. The Commission contemplates several options regarding this requirement; for instance, it is considering whether a high threshold would be more burdensome and whether it should be that the signatures come instead from a majority of the Member States, a quarter of them, or a third. (Id. at 4.)
Another, related consideration is the number of signatures originating from a significant number of States. In the Green Paper, the Commission discusses several options, including requiring a fixed number of citizens or a number of citizens proportionate to a country's population, given the great differences in population across the Union.
Other aspects of the ECI discussed in the Green Paper include the requirement of a minimum age for citizens participating in the exercise of the ECI, as well as requirements for the collection, verification, and authentication of signatures. The Commission has invited EU citizens to respond to the ECI proposal by January 31, 2010.