Petition to the European Parliament
Why a right of petition?
The right of petition was created to provide EU citizens and residents with a simple way of contacting the institutions with a request or complaint. This right is conferred by European Union citizenship.
A petition must relate to a subject falling within the sphere of activity of the European Union and concern the petitioner directly. If this is not the case, the complaint is declared ineligible.
How to exercise it?
The petition may take the form of:
- a request arising from a general need, for example the protection of a cultural monument;
- an individual grievance, such as the recognition of family allowance rights;
- an application to the European Parliament to take a position on a matter of public interest, like human rights.
Preparing a petition: how to proceed?
A petition may be written or submitted online. Though there is no specific format for a written petition, certain requirements - set out in instructions - must be met. The petitioner must include his or her:
- address and signature; and
- must write in one of the official EU languages.
Examination by the Committee on Petitions
Petitions are sent to the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament and processed as follows: the EP committee examines the admissibility of the petition.
It may declare it inadmissible and therefore inform the petitioner of why this was the case and of any other action he or she may take.
If the petition does meet the conditions listed in the instructions:
- Information collection
The EP Committee on Petitions may put a question to the Ombudsman or ask the European Commission for information or its opinion on the matter raised. It sometimes consults other parliamentary committees, especially in cases where a change in the law has been requested. It may also hold hearings or carry out fact-finding missions.
- EP Committee meeting
The petition is then put on the agenda for a committee meeting, to which the European Commission is invited. At the meeting, the European Commission makes an oral statement and comments on its written reply to the issues that have been raised.
Within the European Commission, the Secretary-General is responsible for coordination with the European Parliament, and each Directorate-General deals with the substance of the complaint by preparing the draft contribution for the European Commission.
The Directorate-General Justice and Consumers, in particular, deals with complaints related to Fundamental Rights, EU citizenship aspects, etc.
Where there is a special case requiring individual treatment, the European Commission may contact the appropriate authorities, including the permanent representative of the EU country concerned. This often settles the matter.
In the opposite case, where there is a matter of general importance, for example, if the European Commission finds that an EU law has been infringed, it may take the opportunity to ask the EU country concerned to submit its observations and, possibly, initiate infringement proceedings.
Finally, the petitioner will receive a reply setting out the action that has been taken.
Over the years, the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman have established a successful modus vivendi, referring matters to each other where appropriate.
A posteriori scrutiny by the Committee on Petitions and the European Ombudsman under EU law provides further guarantee that citizens are given a hearing and their legitimate rights are protected.