Europeans will soon have a new way of getting the commission to act on issues that concern them. But how will the new citizens’ initiative work in practice?
The “citizens’ initiative” is one of the many changes introduced in the Lisbon treaty, which enters into force in a few weeks. The initiative is intended to make the Union more democratic by giving citizens a more direct say on EU policies.
EU citizens can already petition the parliament and vote in parliamentary elections. But there is as yet no formal procedure for direct participation in policymaking by the EU executive branch – the European commission.
Some aspects of the citizens’ initiative have yet to be mapped out, and the commission is launching a public consultation to get input from citizens before finalising the arrangements.
The treaty gives citizens the opportunity to ask the commission to bring forward proposals for action in areas where the EU has powers. It specifies that at least a million citizens from a “significant” number of countries must sign the petition. But it leaves open a number of practical questions.
For example, how many countries constitute a “significant number”? How many of the signatures must come from each of those countries? What is the minimum age for participants and who will check the signatures?
Launching the public consultation, commissioner Margot Wallström said the new democratic tool must be “accessible, transparent and user-friendly”.
If you are interested in participating, you can find out more by reading the commission’s recent paper on the initiative.