First successful ECI on the right to water presented in Brussels
The EU's first foray into citizen-led democracy passed another milestone on 17 February when the organisers of the first European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) to gather more than one million signatures presented their proposals to Vice-President Šefčovič and senior Commission officials.
Starting the day with the symbolic handover of the 1.6m signatures of support for the Right2Water initiative, VP Šefčovič said that the success of this first initiative was "proof positive that the ECI can and does work and that grass-roots democracy has a clear place in the EU".
VP Šefčovič then chaired a hearing with representatives from the 11 Commission DGs covered by the scope of the ECI that gave the organisers a chance to put their demands and explain their arguments. The ECI has a broad scope, but in simple terms calls for three main things: for guaranteed access to water and sanitation in the EU; for water to be excluded from market liberalisation within the EU; and for Europe to push for a global right to access to water.
The hearing was also a chance for the European Commission services concerned to hear the arguments and ask for clarifications, if needed. The hearing will provide invaluable input for the Commission as it prepares its response to the ECI which is due to be published by 20 March at the latest.
Later on 17 February, VP Šefčovič also took part in the public hearing on the ECI held at the European Parliament in Brussels, welcoming the success of the ECI as a whole over the last two years: more than 20 initiatives have been successfully registered, and while all but three have thus far failed to get one million signatures, more than five million EU citizens have joined the debate on a wide range of issues highlighted by ECIs such as voting rights, student mobility or media pluralism.
Two other ECIs – one of which calls on the EU to establish a ban and end the financing of activities which presuppose the destruction of human embryos, the other against animal testing – also claim to have reached the one-million signature mark and are expected to formally present their validated certificates of support to the Commission later this year.