4. Users will be able to locate petitions either through browsing/searching the ECI website’s categorized database, or through specific petition links that have been shared by other users. Registered users will then have the ability to become signatories of and/or to further share a given petition.

5. Options for sharing petitions will be via:

a. A URL link (provided on the web page of each petition), which can be emailed or posted on other websites.

b. A petition identification (ID) number (provided on the web page of each petition), which can be emailed or posted on other sites. Searching for the petition ID number on the ECI site will lead directly to the petition page.

c. Direct sharing on popular social networking web sites (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc).

Table 1: Proposed requirements for petition checkpoints

Petition checkpointRequirementsAction
Flash petition>25,000 signatures, from any EU nations, within 2 weeksEC or relevant committee response
Priority petition>250,000 signatures, from any EU nationsEC or relevant committee response + official translations of petition + petition promotion
Flash initiative>500,000 signatures with the minimum requirement met for the number signatories in each of at least 7 countriesEC public hearing, accompanied by legislation proposal to the European Parliament by the relevant EC committee.
Standard initiative>1,000,000 signatures with the minimum requirement met for the number signatories in each of at least 7 countriesEC public hearing, accompanied by legislation proposal to the European Parliament by the relevant EC committee.

6. Depending on signatory number and rate of acquisition, submitted petitions will be automatically eligible for any and all of the pre-defined checkpoints, each of which will be linked to specified action and support from EU organs (Table 1). For a maximum of one year, each proposal will be able to continue collecting signatory support, regardless of meeting the criteria for any of the checkpoints. Each checkpoint will serve a particular purpose:

a. “Flash petition” status is given to proposals that gather significant support within a limited time frame, regardless of signatory nationality, and will warrant a timely response from the EC or a relevant EC committee. EC response will describe its position with regard to the content of the petition, taking into consideration the support it has gathered. The EC will thus have the option to adopt new policy, change existing policy, or suggest the relevant legislature to the European Parliament.  This checkpoint is especially useful in serving as a link between EU citizens and the EC with regard to developing current events and/or matters that may significantly affect selected subpopulations or minorities.

b. “Priority petition” status is given to proposals that gather substantial support, regardless of either rate of support acquisition or signatory nationality. In addition to receiving the same consideration as “flash petitions,” “priority petitions” will also be translated into the official EU languages by the EC, and translations will be added to the original petition. Furthermore, “priority petitions” will receive preferential placement in browsing categories/search results on the ECI website. This checkpoint expands on the purposes of the “flash petition” checkpoint by providing support for particularly promising proposals, especially those originating from individuals without the initial resources required to promote the proposal in a large number of countries (namely, by means of compositioning different language versions and through extensive promotion of the proposal).

c. “Flash initiative” success is granted to proposals that have gathered a substantial proportion of the total support required for standard initiative success, in addition to having met the currently defined minimum requirements for the number of signatories in each of at least 7 EU nations, within a short time frame. The purpose of this checkpoint is to shorten the time delay for proposals that will obviously surpass the required support for initiative success, allowing for timely addressing of issues affecting a wide portion of the EU population.

d. “Standard initiative” success is granted to proposals that have gathered support from a large number of individuals from a significant proportion of the EU nations, as currently described by the ECI framework. Successful initiatives (whether “flash” or “standard”) will be treated as true citizen initiatives, subject not only to a public hearing by the EC, but a call for the proposition of legislature to be discussed by the European Parliament, which will be composed by the relevant EC committee. This process will serve as a balance between providing a tool for direct democracy (legislation proposal resulting from initiative), and ensuring that the entirety of the EU populace is represented in the assessment of the legislation (EU Parliament consideration of proposed legislature).

7. Rather than entering a pre-approval phase, petitions will only be subject to official evaluation after meeting one of the requirements for submission to an EU organ. Before being acted upon by EU organs, petitions will be subject to the evaluation currently part of the ECI framework. Specifically, petitions are rejected if they, “manifestly fall outside the framework of the Commission’s powers to submit a proposal for a legal act of the Union for the purpose of implementing the Treaties…[or] manifestly abusive, frivolous or vexatious…[or] manifestly contrary to the EU values as set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union” (European Commission 2011). Additionally, petition web pages will have a link for user-reporting of inappropriate petitions, which can then be assessed accordingly and, if necessary, removed.

Conclusion

The simplification of the citizens’ end of the ECI framework is an important and necessary step in the true democratization of the EU. It will also serve to bring EU citizens together in joint causes, and create new transnational social associations. Furthermore, it will lead the European Commission to establish clearly defined policies that will be subject to pressures of the European peoples. Continued efforts along the lines of meaningful democratic representation are vital if the EU is to enjoy the widespread support of the people is was established to serve.

References

Watson DC. 2012. Greece crisis: the story of the un-representative democracy. Economic & Political Weekly, Vol. 47, Issue 3, pp30-1.

European Commission. 2011. “Guide to the European Citizens’ Initiative.” European Citizens’ Initiative, European Commission. Viewed on December 31, 2012. http://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/files/guide-eci-en.pdf