Time for ordinary and extraordinary measures for participatory democracy in the European Union - Letter to Commissioner Jourova by the promoters of European Citizens Initiatives

On the 19th of February 2021 the promoters of European Citizens Initiatives received the communication of the third extensions of the terms for the collection of signatures on the official participatory democracy instrument provided by the European Treaties. However, this measure doesn't solve the biggest challenge for citizens committees of citizens: the lack of information in the European public sphere about this instrument and the right of political participation of European citizens. 

Together with the promoters of the ongoing European Citizens Initiatives, we sent the following letter to Commissioner Vera Jourova and to the main institutions and organisations who can make a difference in guaranteeing equal dignity to participatory democracy. The action is a follow up of the previous letter that was sent to Commissioner Jourova and the feedback to the Democracty Action Plan that was submitted in summer 2020.  

 

To Commissioner Vera Jourova


Vice President of the European Commission 
 Values and Transparency


and


Mrs Christa Schweng
, President of the European Economic and Social Committee; Mr Apostolos Tzitzikostas,  
President of the European Committee of the Regions;  
Mr David Sassoli, President of the European Parliament ; Mr Antonio TajaniChair AFCO Committee European Parliament ; Mrs Dolors Montserrat, Chair PETI Committee European Parliament; Mrs Assya Kavrakova ; Executive Director ECAS - European Citizens Action Services; Mr Renate Schroeder, President European Federation of Journalist; Mr Noel Curran, Director General European Broadcasting Union;



Brussels, 19th February 2021 


Subject: Proposals for ordinary and extraordinary measures to ensure full access to information to European Citizens on European Citizens Initiatives

Dear Commissioner Jourová,

We write to you as promoters and supporters of European Citizens Initiatives. We are citizens who made the choice and the commitment to trust the institutional participatory democracy instruments provided by the European Treaties to propose reforms and regulation which can shape the future of Europe in a more sustainable and democratic direction.

We welcomed the fact that the EU Institutions agreed finally to reform the original regulation of European Citizens Initiatives and a new one came into force in January 2020. After one year, it is now clear that legislative reform is not enough to implement the political will for a better known, more user-friendly and successful ECI-administrative culture and new necessary resources have to follow. Otherwise, this will become an instrument not for citizens but only for powerful lobbies. The current 6% success rate in the collection of signatures is abysmal. 

We welcomed the input of the European Commission (received by the European Parliament and the European Council) to extend the deadline for the collection of signatures due to the limitations that Covid19 is imposing across all EU Member States.

However the pandemic - on this matter as on different other burning issues - is revealing the fragility of the official instruments available for citizens to positively interact with the EU institutions and "to help shape the EU".

We face an (almost) impossible task in collecting the signatures not only because of the Covid-19 related restrictions but because only a tiny minority of EU citizens who have the right to sign ECIs know what is an ECI and why it is so preciously different from any other form of petitioning and campaigning.

This letter is a follow-up to the letter that some of us sent you in December 2019. At that time we were asking for:

1) Level the budget currently invested in the European Citizens Initiatives to what is currently invested to inform citizens on elections and on the functioning of representative democracy;

2) Invite all EU public and private broadcasters, and digital media outlets to increase the coverage on participatory democracy tools and proposals, starting from European Citizens Initiatives.

With this letter, we ask you for a meeting to discuss some additional proposals on how the European Commission could guarantee ordinary and extraordinary measures of information on the ongoing European Citizens Initiative.

In particular, we would like to ask you, Commissioner Jourova, and the European Commission to:

  • Inform all EU Citizens through a direct mailing action about the ongoing European Citizens Initiative and the right of EU citizens to sign existing European Citizens Initiatives. This action could be done in the next 60 days considering the terms of the extension that you guaranteed to the existing ECIs.
     
  • Leverage the proximity of Regions and Municipalities to European Citizens and launch a call for the publicity of ongoing European Citizens Initiative on the model of what has been done by StopGlobalWarming.eu with the involvement of Municipalities with a local motion to commit them to actions of informations towards their citizens (adding European Citizens Initiative to the official website) reference: ECAS - Tapping into the potential of cities and regions to promote European participatory democracy and the fight against climate change.
     
  • Integrate into the negotiation around the Info Point new contracts measures to guarantee access to services and infrastructure that can help ECI promoters to scale the size of their outreach on the possibility to sign the ECI
     
  • Organise an online event targeted to local, national and EU media to inform them about the proposals of the European Citizens Initiatives and offer an opportunity for European journalists to cover adequately the political efforts carried on by the European citizens who don't belong to organised parties and large civil society organisations to impact the European public sphere and see their rights of participation fulfilled
     

The challenges that the European Union is facing, from the health and vaccines policies to the management of the role of the technological platforms, the limitations to the freedom of movement and the ambitious goals to fight the climate emergency, are a unique opportunity to strengthen the sense of belonging of European citizens to the democratic debate of the European Union.

Whilst we wait for the decisions on the Conference on the Future of Europe we are convinced the future of Europe is now - in the hands of the citizens and small and large civil society organisations who are currently volunteering and campaigning to officially bring integrative proposals to your table. Proposals that are not a hostage of electoral interest and nation-states negotiation within the European Council.

Together we want to ask you the opportunity to shift the perspective on participatory democracy: not a secret tool for passionate citizens, but a powerful instrument of capacity building and trust among the EU Citizens and the EU Public sphere. As well as an essential contribution for the political debate and decision-making process.

We, therefore, ask you for a meeting to be held in the next weeks with you, to allow us to present you these proposals (some of which had also been included in the Democracy Action Plan Feedback) and to contribute to reinforcing the extraordinary work you are doing to guarantee a healthy and functioning democracy in the European Union.

Best regards,

Virginia Fiume - StopGlobalWarming.eu - A price for carbon to fight climate change European Citizens Initiative Coordinator and Coordinator of EUMANS

Marco Cappato - Promoter of StopGlobalWarming.eu  A price for carbon to fight climate change European Citizens InitiativeEuropean Citizens Initiative

Veneta Magistrelli - Representative, ECI “Stop corruption in Europe at its root, by cutting off funds to countries with inefficient judiciary after deadline”

Nils Kluger - Spokesperson EU Citizens Initiative "Stop Finning - Stop the Trade"

Alexander Cornelissen - Spokesperson EU Citizens Initiative "Stop Finning - Stop the Trade"

Julie Stendaam - Coordinator of the European Citizens' Initiative Right to Cure

Tony Venables - Founder of ECIT Foundation and co-promoter of Voters Withou Borders European Citizens Initiative

Sinead O’Keefe - co-coordinator of the Voters Without Borders European Citizens Initiative

Klaus Sambor, Representative of the Group of Organisers of the ECI "Start Unconditional Basic Incomes (UBI) throughout the EU"  

Ronald Blaschke, Substitute of the Representative of Group of Organisers of the ECI "Start Unconditional Basic Incomes (UBI) throughout the EU"

Marco Ciurcina - president of Associazione GOIPE and representative of the group of organizers of  "Freedom to share" European Citizens' Initiative.

Gregory Engels - member of Associazione GOIPE and co-promoter of "Freedom to share" European Citizens' Initiative

Thomas Eitzenberger - promoter of "Actions on Climate Emergency" - Fridays For Future European Citizens Initiative


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