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FAQ

General Q&A on the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI)

  1. What is the difference between an ECI and a petition?
  2. Are there citizens' initiatives within the member states?
  3. Can citizens request a revision of the Treaties with an ECI?
  4. Is there any type of EU funding provided to the organisers of an ECI?
  5. Is it possible to present an initiative which is contrary to another on-going initiative? Is it possible to present the same initiative several times?
  6. Can organisers withdraw a proposed citizens' initiative?
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Preparation and setting up of a citizens' committee

  1. The rules say the committee must have members living in 7 different member states. Does it also have to include 7 different nationalities – or could some members have the same nationality?
  2. Can non-EU nationals organise a citizens' initiative / be members of a citizens' committee?
  3. How old do citizens have to be to be a member of a citizens' committee?
  4. Do citizens need to be registered to vote to be a member of a citizens' committee?
  5. How many members of the citizens' committee must be mentioned to register a proposed initiative?
  6. Can Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) be members of a citizens' committee?
  7. What is the role of the committee contact persons?
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Registration of the proposed initiative

  1. What information is needed to register a proposed initiative?
  2. Once the proposed initiative is registered, what information is published on this website?
  3. In which language is it possible to register a proposed initiative?
  4. Does the Commission translate the proposed initiatives?
  5. Which means of redress does the citizens' committee have if the Commission refuses the registration of their proposed initiative?
  6. Where is it possible to find information on proposed initiatives that have not been registered by the Commission?
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Collection of statements of support

  1. When can organisers start collecting statements of support for their proposed initiative? How long do they have to collect them?
  2. Can organisers use the same paper form to collect signatures from any EU citizen?
  3. Do the forms have to be in an official language of the member state where the statements of support are collected? Is there any language requirement?
  4. A minimum number of statements of support must be gathered in at least 7 member states. What about the statements of support collected in member states where the minimum number is not reached?
  5. How old do EU citizens have to be to sign up to an initiative?
  6. Do EU citizens need to be registered to vote to sign up to an initiative?
  7. Can non-EU nationals resident in the EU sign up to an initiative?
  8. If a person is a national of one member state living in another member state, in which member state will his/her statement of support be counted?
  9. Can EU citizens resident outside the EU sign up to an initiative? In which member state will their statements of support be counted?
  10. How can citizens who give their support to an initiative be sure that their personal data will not be used for any other purpose?
  11. Can organisers keep data of signatories for further dissemination of information?
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Certification of online collection system by a competent national authority

  1. How can citizens be sure that signing up to an initiative online is secure?
  2. Can organisers use more than one collection system (one per member state, for example)?
  3. Can organisers use one online collection system for all member states?
  4. Can organisers ask the relevant national authority to certify their online collection system before the registration of their proposed initiative with the Commission?
  5. Which format can organisers use to send statements of support collected online to the competent national authorities for verification?
  6. Which means of redress are available to organisers if a competent national authority fails to issue the certificate within the 1-month time limit?
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Software for online collection systems developed by the Commission

  1. Where is it possible to find information and guidance about the software developed by the Commission?
  2. Is it possible to modify the software developed by the Commission?
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Verification of statements of support by the competent national authorities

  1. What information do signatories have to give in their statement of support?
  2. How are statements of support checked?
  3. Which means of redress are available to organisers if the competent national authorities fail to issue the certificates within the 3-month time limit?
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Submission of the initiative to the Commission

  1. Do organisers have to deliver all statements of support to the Commission?
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Examination and answer by the Commission

  1. If the Commission decides to adopt a legislative proposal in response to a citizens' initiative, what happens next?
  2. What happens if the Commission decides not to act on a citizens' initiative? Are there any means of redress?




General Q&A on the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI)

  1. What is the difference between an ECI and a petition?
    The right to petition the European Parliament, which has already existed under the previous Treaties, differs substantially from the citizens' initiative introduced by the Lisbon Treaty.
    • Petitions can be submitted by citizens of the Union as well by natural or legal persons residing or having their registered office in a member state, either individually or in association with other citizens or persons.
    • Petitions must concern matters which come within the Union's fields of activity and which directly affect the petitioner(s) (e.g. a complaint).
    • Petitions are addressed to the European Parliament in its role as the direct representative of citizens at EU level.
    • With petitions, there are no formal requirements for a minimum number of signatures or spread of support in multiple EU countries.
    • The citizens' initiative, on the other hand, enables citizens to call directly on the Commission to bring forward new proposals for legal acts - if they have sufficient support across the EU.

    More on petitions to the European Parliament.
  2. Are there citizens' initiatives within the member states?

    YES – in most member states, either national, regional or local ones. They differ considerably in scope and procedure.

    Examples of national citizens' initiatives
    Austria, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, the Netherlands.

    Examples of regional citizens' initiatives
    Austria, Germany, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands.

    Examples of local citizens' initiatives
    Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden.

    Outside the EU
    Switzerland, USA, etc.

  3. Can citizens request a revision of the Treaties with an ECI?

    NO - in accordance with the Treaty, citizens' initiatives can only concern matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties.

  4. Is there any type of EU funding provided to the organisers of an ECI?

    NO - no EU funding is available for this purpose.

  5. Is it possible to present an initiative which is contrary to another on-going initiative? Is it possible to present the same initiative several times?

    YES – there are no restrictions on either of these in the rules.

  6. Can organisers withdraw a proposed citizens' initiative?

    YES – at any time before they send statements of support to the competent national authorities for verification.

    Withdrawal is irreversible. A withdrawn proposed initiative cannot be resumed, and all statements of support collected become null and void.

    Withdrawn initiatives – marked as such – will remain viewable on this site under the section on obsolete initiatives.

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Preparation and setting up of a citizens' committee

  1. The rules say the committee must have members living in 7 different member states. Does it also have to include 7 different nationalities – or could some members have the same nationality?

    The factor that counts is their country of residence. They can have the same or different nationalities.

  2. Can non-EU nationals organise a citizens' initiative / be members of a citizens' committee?

    NO - members of the citizens' committee must be EU citizens (nationals of a member state).

  3. How old do citizens have to be to be a member of a citizens' committee?

    Citizens need to be 18 except if they are nationals of or residents in Austria, in which case they can be 16 (i.e. old enough to vote in European Parliament elections).

  4. Do citizens need to be registered to vote to be a member of a citizens' committee?

    NO – they only need to be old enough to vote in European Parliament elections (see previous question).

  5. How many members of the citizens' committee must be mentioned to register a proposed initiative?

    The Commission will only examine information on 7 members living in 7 different member states (Members of the European Parliament being excluded). Therefore, only those 7 members must be mentioned in the registration form.

  6. Can Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) be members of a citizens' committee?

    YES – but they cannot be counted to reach the minimum of 7 citizens living in 7 different member states. Therefore they cannot be among the 7 members mentioned in the registration form.

  7. What is the role of the committee contact persons?

    The contact persons – the representative and his/her substitute – are mandated to speak and act on behalf of the committee.

    They liaise between the committee and the European Commission throughout the procedure, in particular managing all submissions to the Commission in the context of their proposed initiative.

    They will both have access to the organiser account and will receive all correspondence from the Commission.

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Registration of the proposed initiative

  1. What information is needed to register a proposed initiative?
    • the title of the proposed citizens' initiative (maximum 100 characters)
    • the subject-matter (maximum 200 characters)
    • a description of the objectives of the proposed citizens' initiative on which the Commission is invited to act (maximum 500 characters)
    • the provisions of the Treaties considered relevant by the organisers for the proposed action
    • personal details of the 7 members of the citizens' committee (full names, postal addresses, nationalities and dates of birth), indicating specifically the representative and the substitute as well as their E-mail addresses and telephone numbers
    • documents that prove the full names, postal addresses, nationalities and dates of birth of each of the 7 members of the citizens' committee
    • all sources of funding and support for the proposed citizens' initiative (known at the time of registration) worth more than €500 per year and per sponsor.

    Optionally, organisers may provide:
    • the address of their website for the proposed initiative (if any)
    • an annex (max. 5 MB) with more detailed information on the subject, objectives and background to the proposed citizens' initiative
    • a draft legal act (max. 5 MB).
  2. Once the proposed initiative is registered, what information is published on this website?

    All the content related to the proposed initiative (title, subject-matter, objectives, provision(s) of the Treaties considered relevant by the organisers and any other information provided) and its sources of support and funding.

    As regards the personal data of organisers, only their full names and the e-mail addresses of the contact persons (representative and substitute) are published.

    For more details, see the privacy statement

  3. In which language is it possible to register a proposed initiative?
    Any official EU language can be used.
  4. Does the Commission translate the proposed initiatives?

    NO – it is the responsibility of the organisers to translate their proposed initiative into the languages they want.

    After confirmation of registration in one official language, organisers can submit translations of their proposed initiative to the Commission in other official EU languages (at least the title, subject-matter and objectives). Before uploading them to the register, the Commission will check whether there are no manifest and significant inconsistencies with the original version of the title, subject-matter and objectives.
  5. Which means of redress does the citizens' committee have if the Commission refuses the registration of their proposed initiative?

    The registration decision is based on legal grounds. It can therefore be contested. If registration is refused, the Commission will inform the organisers of the reasons and all possible judicial and extra-judicial remedies available to them.

    This includes the possibility of bringing proceedings before the Court of Justice of the EU or filing a complaint with the European Ombudsman (to complain about maladministration).
  6. Where is it possible to find information on proposed initiatives that have not been registered by the Commission?

    The negative answers given by the Commission to proposed initiatives that did not meet the conditions for registration as set out in the Regulation on the citizens' initiative are available here.

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Collection of statements of support

  1. When can organisers start collecting statements of support for their proposed initiative? How long do they have to collect them?
    They can start the day they receive confirmation that the Commission has registered their proposed initiative.

    From the date of registration of the proposed initiative, organisers have 1 year to collect statements of support.

  2. Can organisers use the same paper form to collect signatures from any EU citizen?

    NO – organisers have to use separate forms according to the member state which signatories come from. This means that all signatories on any one form must come from the same member state.

    On each form, organisers have to first indicate the member state to which it will be sent. Only citizens able to sign for this member state can then use this form.

  3. Do the forms have to be in an official language of the member state where the statements of support are collected? Is there any language requirement?

    Organisers can collect statements in any member state in any official EU language.

    However, the information on the proposed initiative given in the form (points 5 to 7 in Annex III of the Regulation) must be in one of the languages in which the proposed initiative is published on this site.

  4. A minimum number of statements of support must be gathered in at least 7 member states. What about the statements of support collected in member states where the minimum number is not reached?

    These statements of support will of course be added to the total number of signatories to reach the 1-million target but the member states concerned will not be counted in the quarter of member states required.

  5. How old do EU citizens have to be to sign up to an initiative?

    Citizens need to be 18, except if they are nationals of or residents in Austria, in which case they can be 16 (i.e. old enough to vote in European Parliament elections).

  6. Do EU citizens need to be registered to vote to sign up to an initiative?

    NO – they only need to be old enough to vote in European Parliament elections (see previous question).

  7. Can non-EU nationals resident in the EU sign up to an initiative?

    NO – only EU citizens (nationals of a member state) can sign up.

  8. If a person is a national of one member state living in another member state, in which member state will his/her statement of support be counted?
    Depending on the data required by these member states, this person may have the possibility to choose between these member states, bearing in mind that he/she can sign up only once for an initiative. The data which he/she provides in his/her statement of support (e.g. passport number or residence card number) will determine in which member state his/her statement of support will be counted.
    Example
    An Austrian living in Estonia can either
    • fill in the form for Estonia, providing his/her full first names, family names, address, date and place of birth and nationality - in this case, his/her statement of support will be verified and therefore counted in Estonia
    • or fill in the form for Austria, providing in addition to the above data a personal identification document number from the list accepted by Austria and available in Part C of Annex III of the Regulation (passport or identity card number) – in this case, his/her statement of support will be verified and therefore counted in Austria.

    In any case, citizens are allowed to sign up to an initiative only once.
  9. Can EU citizens resident outside the EU sign up to an initiative? In which member state will their statements of support be counted?

    This depends on the member state of which they are nationals.

    Depending on the requirements asked by the member states, they may or may not be able to sign up. This is due to the fact that some member states are not able to verify statements of support from their nationals living outside the EU.

    For those who will have the possibility to sign up, their statement of support will be counted in their member state of nationality.

  10. How can citizens who give their support to an initiative be sure that their personal data will not be used for any other purpose?

    The Regulation on the citizens' initiative ensures that data protection is fully assured, in the organisation and follow-up of a citizens' initiative, by all the parties involved - organisers, member states and the Commission.

    Legislation in force on personal data protection applies to the processing of personal data carried out for the purpose of a citizens' initiative. As 'data controllers', organisers will be liable for any damage they cause in accordance with applicable national law and subject to appropriate penalties for any infringements of the Regulation.

  11. Can organisers keep data of signatories for further dissemination of information?

    Not as part of the official statement of support form: signatories' data may only be used for the purpose of supporting the proposed initiative as provided in Article 12(3) of the Regulation on the citizens' initiative. However, organisers may ask signatories for their contact details separately for the purpose of keeping them informed, provided that data protection legislation is complied with.

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Certification of online collection system by a competent national authority

  1. How can citizens be sure that signing up to an initiative online is secure?

    Online collection cannot start until organisers have had their online collection system certified by the relevant national authority.

    Certification involves checking that the system meets the minimum security and technical requirements set out in Article 6 of the Regulation on the citizens' initiative. For that purpose, the authorities have to check that the system complies with detailed technical specifications that are set out in Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1179/2011 laying down technical specifications for online collection systems pursuant to Regulation (EU) No 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the citizens' initiative.

    This also applies when the organisers use the open source software set up by the Commission.

  2. Can organisers use more than one collection system (one per member state, for example)?

    YES – but they would have to get each system certified individually.

  3. Can organisers use one online collection system for all member states?

    YES – this system would have to be certified only once, by an authority of the member state where the data will be stored.

  4. Can organisers ask the relevant national authority to certify their online collection system before the registration of their proposed initiative with the Commission?

    YES – they will however need to provide the exact title of their proposed initiative when they request the certification.

    Nevertheless, having an online collection system certified compliant does not prejudge the Commission's decision on the registration of the proposed initiative concerned.

  5. Which format can organisers use to send statements of support collected online to the competent national authorities for verification?

    Organisers can send statements of support to the competent national authorities in paper or electronically. Statements of support collected online can either be printed and sent in paper form, or sent in electronic form via a secure means such as encrypted files in a CD-ROM. XML files could also be used if they are accepted by the national authority concerned. The software developed by the Commission allows the export of statements of support in XML format.

  6. Which means of redress are available to organisers if a competent national authority fails to issue the certificate within the 1-month time limit?

    Organisers can use the means of redress available at national level. They can seek redress from national administrative or judicial authorities (including national or regional ombudsmen).

    Organisers can also lodge a complaint with the European Commission for non-application of EU law.

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Software for online collection systems developed by the Commission

  1. Where is it possible to find information and guidance about the software developed by the Commission?

    The latest release of the software is published on JoinUp, where you can also find previous releases as well as all useful information and documentation for downloading and managing the software (for the documentation, see the section "e-Library"). Moreover, in the sections "Forums" and "News & blogs", you can ask your questions about the software, as well as find questions and answers raised by other users.

  2. Is it possible to modify the software developed by the Commission?

    The software developed by the Commission provides the necessary functionalities for the online collection of statements of support according to the rules established by the Regulation on the citizens' initiative. However, organisers may wish to modify its elements to better adapt it to their needs and preferences. Being open-source, all the elements of this software can be modified.

    However, if organisers wish to use a modified version of the software, they must ensure that it still complies with Article 6(4) of the Regulation on the citizens' initiative and with the technical specifications implementing it (Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1179/2011).

    Please note that if any of the core features of the software are modified, use of the software will no longer guarantee compliance with the provisions mentioned above and the competent national authority will carry out the certification procedure as if the system was not using the software developed by the Commission (the software is packaged using a hashed code which can be checked by the authority to ascertain that the version presented for certification has not been modified). Elements at database level (e.g. the rules for the automatic validation process of entered data) can however be modified without compromising the compliance with the Regulation.

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Verification of statements of support by the competent national authorities

  1. What information do signatories have to give in their statement of support?

    The data depend on the EU member state which they come from. This is because it is the member states that are responsible for verifying the validity of signatories' statements of support and for certifying the number of valid statements collected in each country. The required data therefore correspond to what the member states consider necessary to verify a statement of support.

    The data required can include name, address, date and place of birth, nationality and, for several member states, a personal identification number.

    Part of this information (such as full address, place or date of birth) is not required by some member states.

    For full details, see the 2 models for the statement of support forms in Annex III (Parts A and B) of the Regulation on the citizens' initiative.

    As regards member states requiring a personal identification number, see Part C of Annex III for a list of documents/numbers accepted by each.

  2. How are statements of support checked?

    Organisers have to send the statement of support forms to the competent national authorities which will carry out appropriate checks in order to certify the number of valid statements of support collected. These checks may be based on random sampling.

  3. Which means of redress are available to organisers if the competent national authorities fail to issue the certificates within the 3-month time limit?

    Organisers can use the means of redress available at national level. They can seek redress from national administrative or judicial authorities (including national or regional ombudsmen).

    Organisers can also lodge a complaint with the European Commission for non-application of EU law.

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Submission of the initiative to the Commission

  1. Do organisers have to deliver all statements of support to the Commission?

    NO – they only have to send through their organiser account on this website the submission form as well as copies of all the certificates they received from the competent national authorities confirming that the required number of statements of support has been reached.

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Examination and answer by the Commission

  1. If the Commission decides to adopt a legislative proposal in response to a citizens' initiative, what happens next?

    The Commission's proposal will have to follow the appropriate legislative procedure.

    To become law, it will have to be examined and then adopted by the legislator (generally the European Parliament and the Council or in some cases only the Council).

  2. What happens if the Commission decides not to act on a citizens' initiative? Are there any means of redress?

    NO – unlike decisions on registration, this decision is based on a political analysis by the Commission of the initiative's substance and is not subject to an appeal procedure.

    The citizens' initiative is an agenda-setting initiative which obliges the Commission to give serious consideration to requests made by citizens, but it is not obliged to act on them.

    However, if it decides not to act, the Commission will clearly explain its reasons.