What is a European citizens' initiative?
A European citizens' initiative is an invitation to the European Commission to propose legislation on matters where the EU has competence to legislate. A citizens' initiative has to be backed by at least one million EU citizens, coming from at least 7 out of the 27 member states. A minimum number of signatories is required in each of those 7 member states.
The rules and procedures governing the citizens' initiative are set out in an EU Regulation adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union in February 2011.
What can be proposed as a citizens' initiative?
A citizens' initiative is possible in any field where the Commission has the power to propose legislation, for example environment, agriculture, transport or public health. In order to launch a citizens' initiative, citizens must form a "citizens' committee" composed of at least 7 EU citizens being resident in at least 7 different member states.
The members of the citizens' committee must be EU citizens old enough to vote in the European Parliament elections (18 except in Austria, where the voting age is 16). Citizens' initiatives cannot be run by organisations. However, organisations can promote or support initiatives provided that they do so with full transparency.
The citizens' committee must register its initiative on ec.europa.eu before starting to collect statements of support from citizens. Once the registration is confirmed, organisers have one year to collect signatures.
What happens when a citizens' initiative gets one million signatures?
The Commission will carefully examine the initiative. Within 3 months after receiving the initiative:
- Commission representatives will meet the organisers so they can explain in detail the issues raised in their initiative
- the organisers will have the opportunity to present their initiative at a public hearing in the European Parliament
- the Commission will adopt a formal response spelling out what action it will propose in response to the citizens' initiative, if any, and the reasons for doing or not doing so.
The response, which will take the form of a communication, will be formally adopted by the College of Commissioners and published in all official EU languages.
The Commission is not obliged to propose legislation as a result of an initiative. If the Commission decides to put forward a legislative proposal, the normal legislative procedure kicks off: the Commission proposal is submitted to the legislator (generally the European Parliament and the Council or in some cases only the Council) and, if adopted, it becomes law.
For further information please visit ec.europa.eu. This website provides information on all citizens' initiatives, it explains the rules, and enables you to launch your initiative.
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