Plenary session in Strasbourg
Speech by the commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom
- After one year is too early to make definitive conclusions
- The European Citizens’ Initiative can become useful to the citizens themselves, who will, thus, be part of the functioning of the European institutions work
- It is up to us to provide the means for a greater involvement of citizens.
- There have been several problems, which has been documented by the European Commission in cooperation with the Member States.
The commissioner Malmström cites some problems that have emerged during this first year.
- The Commission has offered its own free service from its Office in Luxembourg taking into consideration the statements of support that were obtained beyond 12 months of Regulation.
- The Commission has worked hard to provide advice and assistance to all Member States and has pledged to reduce the concerns of various States.
- The Commission is going beyond regulation to ensure that the initiative will become a success.
- The MEPs and the organizers underline the difficulties of software management, referring to it as being very stiff. The Commission is faced with very important and personal acts, and is doing everything to protect the services, the authors and organizers of the various initiatives. The Commission will continue to collaborate with the organizers and with the European Parliament.
- The main problem is figuring out whether a decentralized system to host the initiative agreement or navigate to a centralized system to collect signatures is preferable.
- Some parliamentarians and organizers have raised doubts about the usefulness of the software of the Commission; according to them, this doesn’t help the propaganda campaign for collecting signatures. However, the Commission has the task of facilitating the collection of signatures and this depends on the organisers themselves to enact their initiatives effectively. The Commission will continue to provide assistance for the procedure.
- Another problem regarding the signatures online collecting software lays in the fact that it has not been validated very well. For the Commission, this judgement is incorrect, moreover, there have been concerns in order to ensure and improve the Community’s approach. In addition, a seminar was held last December, but there was not a broad participation to provide and ensure external contributions.
- The Commission’s legislative proposal allows all citizens to exercise their rights in any State they reside. However, the regulation adopted by the Council has introduced several requirements for the various Member States; for example, British and Irish citizens outside their country of origin will not be able to sustain the initiative agreement because of the requirements of their country of residence. This is not acceptable and the Commission has encouraged Member Countries to lower the requirements.
After the various interventions of MEPs, the reply from commissioner Malmström
- These initiatives are taken, on the one hand a success, on the other hand, one must face several problems.
- Citizens should continue to sign and we have to continue the collection of signatures.
- The Commission has urged the Member States to reduce the thresholds and to extend the expiration dates for the citizen’s participation.
- The amendments to the Treaty are not included in the object of the Initiative.
- We must do all we can to improve the means of communication and dissemination of the different initiatives.
- I will refer all to Commissioner Sefkovic for a subsequent debate here in a plenary session.