ONLY 2.4% OF EUROPEANS KNOW ABOUT THE EXISTENCE OF THE EUROPEAN CITIZENS INITIATIVE, THE ONLY PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY INSTRUMENT OF THE EUROPEAN UNION
At the vigil of the Conference on the Future of Europe citizens committees and civil society organizations reveal alarming data on the awareness of European Citizens of their rights of participation. Results contradicting the Eurobarometer survey were revealed by a YouGov survey commissioned by the EU SIGN DAY coalition, led by the paneuropean citizens movement EUMANS, the promoters of 6 European Citizens Initiative, and supported 10 civil society organisations and the coalition Citizens Take Over Europe.
(The original data set (Excel files) including the questionnaire’s wording please see here - don't forget to quote EU SIGN DAY and the promoters of the initiative if you use the data)
- Surveys were carried out in Italy, Germany, Finland and Portugal. Overall just 2.4% of the respondents answered “Yes, I know what it is” and could also correctly choose the valid description of an European Citizens Initiative (ECI).
- German respondents had the lowest knowledge of ECI’s, with just 1.4% stating they knew what it was and being able to describe it correctly, whilst Portugal had the highest results with 4.1%.
- On the other hand, in some countries as many as 76% of respondents report that they have never heard of an ECI.
Since 2012, the European Union has made available to all European citizens an essential tool for direct participation in EU policies, the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI). But are citizens aware of it? And how many know exactly what it is? These are the questions a YouGov survey*, released on the occasion of Europe Day (9 May) tried to answer. The survey was commissioned by Eumans, the pan-European citizens' initiative movement founded by Marco Cappato, the promoter of the European Citizens Initiative StopGlobalWarming.eu, in collaboration with a network of citizens committees and organisations currently engaged in the collection of 1 million of signatures each to push proposals to the EU institutions.
The results showed that across the EU, there is currently limited knowledge and awareness of the ECI as a tool for participatory democracy. Whilst the results differed slightly per country, overall the results are far lower than the poll carried out directly by the EU Commission which suggested an average of 75% of EU citizens were aware of their right to participation with this democratic tool. As stated in the results summary, the YouGov Poll has shown the complete opposite, that 76% of european citizens were unaware of this right.
Across all countries poll results, the knowledge of ECI’s reduces notably with age group, with those from the youngest age group (18-24 years old in all countries except in Finland with 18-29 years old) answering most often, with an average of 12%, to the first question with “Yes, I know what it is”. In comparison those in the oldest age group (55 years old + in all countries except in Finland with 60 years old +) only gave the same response to the first question with an average of 6.75%. This suggests that with time the awareness of ECI’s as an opportunity for participatory democracy in Europe will grow. Despite this, the percentage of those who have a good knowledge of ECI’s, even for the age group which could be regarded as the ‘most aware’, are still concerningly low.
The European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) is an instrument of participatory democracy within the EU, thanks to which support from one million citizens can invite the Commission to submit a proposal for the purpose of implementing the policy as EU legislation. In order to be considered by the Commission, the ECI has to collect one million signatures in support within 12 months, whilst also reaching certain population percentage thresholds in at least a quarter of the member states.
With the aim to raise awareness of this important right available to European citizens, coinciding with the inauguration of the Conference on the Future of Europe, the promoters of the current European Citizens' Initiatives have come together. The plan is to celebrate Europe Day in an "EU Sign Day", a day dedicated to the signing of all current European Citizens' Initiatives. The self-organised action aims to stimulate and advocate the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, as well as the European Council to adopt all necessary measures to deploy granular information for European citizens on their right to take part in European participatory democracy processes (starting from the European Citizens Initiative as well as the Conference on the Future of Europe digital platform).
Those involved include StopGlobalWarming.eu - for carbon pricing; Unconditional Basic Income - for a universal basic income; Freedom to Share - for the legalisation of filesharing for personal and non-profit purposes; Reclaim Your Face - to regulate the use of biometric technologies; and finally Voters Without Borders - for the extension of participation rights in local, national and European elections to European citizens residing in EU countries other than their country of citizenship. The full list of the 14 ongoing initiatives can be found at https://eusignday.eu.
"Europe Day must not be reduced to a celebration of the past, but must serve to build the future, towards a true European democracy," said Marco Cappato, political activist and founder of Eumans. "There is no democracy without knowledge. There will be no European democracy until we have gained real knowledge of the instruments of European civic participation. That's why the best way to celebrate is to fight to gain awareness of the European Citizens' Initiatives, by signing up and inviting people to sign up to all the initiatives with which we agree".
Virginia Fiume, coordinator of EUMANS, commented: “The data collected by YouGov on the real awareness about European Citizens Initiatives are shocking and they should worry the EU institutions, particularly at the start of the Conference on the Future of Europe. If the European Citizens Initiative - provided by the Treaties for 10 years it is so unknown among the EU Citizens - then what is the real level of awareness of the Conference on the Future of Europe? All the European Union institutions should act urgently to reform the way information on citizens' political rights is disseminated, beyond participation in the European Parliament elections. Europe Day and the EU SIGN DAY are an opportunity to react to this democratic emergency and ensure the deployment of the maximum level of resources to reach all the European citizens informing them both about the possibility to sign and support all European Citizens Initiatives as well as the Conference on the Future of Europe platform. Our call for the EU SIGN DAY is even more important to ensure the maximum level of attention for the democratic emergency portrayed by these data”