Une information citoyenne au service d'une identité européenne
Réactions, commentaires et débats avec des invités

Glossaire interactif des termes de l'Espace de liberté, de sécurité et de justice
Observatoire législatif de l’Espace européen de liberté, de sécurité et de justice
Veille juridique et documentaire axée sur la Charte des droits fondamentaux de l’Union européenne
Actualités des grands projets de l'Union européenne
Dossiers documentaires thématiques
Actualités sur le rôle de l'Union européenne dans le monde
Une information citoyenne au service d'une identité européenne

Another brick to the construction of an equitable Europe: reinforce the Partecipatory Democracy process.

pdf mise en ligne :20 10 2008 ( NEA say… n° 55 )


Bringing power to the people, that are effected directly by legislation is a bold and necessary measure in an age when accountability is often swept under the carpet, and politicians increasingly fail to represent the interest of those had elected them once the final votes are cast.

Partecipatory democracy is a priority on the agenda of the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) who are launching their campaign in the European Parliament in Brussels. The aim of this ambitious campaign is to empower citizens to propose concrete policy and legal changes to the European Commission, by exercising the right of initiative. With hundreds of organizations behind them, and volunteers in their thousands, the ECI are determined to show that collective action can have a direct impact on the way we live our lives as active producers, rather than passive consumers of democracy.

By attempting to gather one million signatures, the ECI campaign aims to gain the right of initiative, so that European citizens and civil society organizations could then directly influence the political agenda of the EU for the first time in history. With one million citizens collective voices, it is possible to demand changes to European law and policy, placing the right to challenge the actions of politicians firmly in the hands of the people at street level.


Signature of ECI campaign hander over.

The signatures are the result of a Europe-wide campaign, involving organisations and initiatives in various countries. Most of the signatures are coming from the Netherlands, Poland, France, Belgium and Bulgaria. The European Parliament's Vice President, Diana Wallis, have expressed that it has become very realistic, that we receive a legal basis for the ECI right quite soon and that there is huge interest to learn from the concrete experience with collecting signatures on a transnational level.

Carsten Berg explained the ECI-campaign and the lesson learned. He also outlined some of the key elements how a European Citizens' Initiative process should be designed. He underlined the following: “Experience in EU member states has shown that citizens' initiatives, if they are to able truly workable, need to be designed in a citizen-friendly way. If we take into account the specific circumstance at the EU level, which we have encountered, it is easy to see how much more difficult it is to organize and carry out a successful citizens' initiative at this level: huge geographic distance between us as European citizens, the enormous variety of more than 20 European languages, which we are speaking, and the absence of a common public space are strong communication barriers that mark some of the key challenges to developing a Europe-wide campaign structure. Hence, when working on the procedure it must always be remember that we are dealing with a European and not a national citizens' initiative.”

However, on the otherwise, there is the risk to kill the instrument before it is born. In fact the ECI warned since it has happened with many national citizen's initiatives rights, that they never could be used due to too restrictive rules.

Carsten Berg continued saying: “If we bear in mind the existing high hurdle of one million signatures, any additional formal restrictions should be kept reasonably low and as favorable as possible to the organizers of future citizens' initiative”..

At the end Carsten Berg express the ECI' s proposal:” Every future ECI should be provided for with legal consultancy, translation services and financial reimbursement for a portion of ECI costs already before it is finalized. We also made clear that it is essential that the EU-institutions explore and develop a verifiable on line signature procedure. A verifiable e-signature option would tremendously help to facilitate large-scale use of and access to this new instrument.”     



Treaty of Lisbon: A more democratic and transparent Europe


The Treaty of Lisbon confirms three principals of democratic governance in Europe:

l       Democratic equality: the European institutions must give equal attention to all citizens

l       Representative democracy: a greater role for the European Parliament and greater involvement for national parliaments

l       Participatory democracy: new forms of interaction between citizens and the European institutions, like the citizens' initiative.


Greater powers for the European Parliament.

The members of the European Parliament are elected by direct universal suffrage every five years to represent the citizens of the member countries. Parliament's powers have been gradually extended with every new treaty. The Treaty of Lisbon is no exception, giving more powers in relation to lawmaking, budget and international agreements.

Lawmaking: the co-decision procedure has been extended to several new fields. This means that the Parliament now has the same degree of lawmaking power as the Council in some areas where it used to be merely consulted or not involved at all.

Budget: the new treaty confirms the established practice of working with a multiannual financial framework, which Parliament will have approve in future. It also abolished the current distinction between “compulsory” and “ non Compulsory” expenditure. This innovation creates a new balance between the two institutions when approving the UE' s budget.

International agreements: the European Parliament's assent will be required for all international agreements in fields governed by the ordinary legislative procedure.


A greater role for national parliaments

The greatest novelty lies in new power to enforce subsidiarity. Subsidiarity means that the EU acts only where action will be more effective at EU level than at national level. Any national parliament may flag a proposal for UE action which it believes does not respect this principle.


Transparency in the Council of Ministers  

National parliaments and citizens will now be able to see which decisions have been taken by which national ministers in the Council, since all its deliberations on legislative matters will be made public.


More participatory democracy  

There are already many ways in which European citizens can find out about and take part in the political process of the UE. The newest of these is the citizens' initiative, whereby one million citizens, from any number of member countries, will be able to ask the Commission to present a proposal in any of the EU's areas of responsibility. The practical details of this initiative will be worked out once the Treaty of Lisbon takes effect.


Petitions highlight “local problem”

Last years the Spanish, German and Romanians were the most active petitioners to the European Parliament. The total number of petitions received from the twenty seven countries was over 1500.

Discriminations, matters relating to the Union's internal market and consumers complaints were also major causes of petitions.

In total the number of petitions rose by almost 50% in 2007. Not all of these are admissible as they must concern areas that fall with the EU' s field of activity. About a third of those submitted failed this test. Hearings, fact-finding missions and interviewing experts are just three ways MEPs on the cross-party Petitions Committee can investigate a case (Resolution of 23 September 2008 on the deliberations of the Committee on Petitions during 2007, of the European Parliament).

If they are convinced of a case, then the 38 members on the committee can ask the European Commission to investigate infringement of EU law and if necessary launch an infringement procedure against a country forcing them to take action. MEPs can also draw a lot of unwanted public attention to cases where abuses have taken place.


Dumb down normative contest

In order to implement the Lisbon Strategy, simplification of the regulatory environment is one of the European Union's priorities. The idea is to produce legislation which does not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the objective. Certain provisions are excessively prescriptive and too costly. Other are inconsistent, unclear and obsolete. The Commission underlines the fact that simplification is not synonymous with deregulation, but aims to help citizens and economic operators find their way through the regulatory environment.

In order to implement its strategy the Commission has established a rolling programme of simplification. The Commission is basing its approach to simplification on sectoral assessment. It intends to measure the impact of general and sector-specific legislation, especially the economic, environmental and social aspect, on all stakeholders in each sector concerned.

The Commission intends to make use of several simplification methods, including:


l       repeal: the Commission will continue its efforts to repeal legal acts which are irrelevant or obsolete. Member States will also have to repeal the national measures corresponding to Community acts that have  been repealed.


l       codification: the Commission intends to complete codification, which contributes to the transparency and implementation of legislation.


l       recasting: recasting simultaneously amends and codifies the legal acts in question and thus helps to provide economic operators with a clearer and more streamlined regulatory framework. The Commission is planning to use this method when proposing amendments to existing acts, especially for the most effective amendments in terms of simplification;

l       modification of the regulatory approach: first of all, the Commission intends to limit the use of legislation by drawing on methods such as co-regulation and the definition of essential requirements in connection with harmonisation. Standardisation is an example of co-regulation which the Commission is actively encouraging. As regards technical harmonisation, the Commission's aim to limit the content of Community legislation to essential requirements, referring to harmonised European standards for all the detailed technical specifications. The Commission envisages simple and light conformity assessment. These methods will reduce intervention by public authorities. The Commission would like to extend this approach to as many sectors as possible, even beyond the services sector. The change in the regulatory approach also involves choosing the appropriate legal instrument more carefully. In some cases replacing directives by regulations can be conducive to simplification, as regulations avoid implementation differences at national level;

l       reinforcing of the use of information technology: e-government can help reduce administrative burdens and will be promoted by the Commission.


Related acts

Communication from the Commission of 14 November 2006 "Commission working document -- First progress report on the strategy for the simplification of the regulatory environment" [COM(2006) 690 final (FR) (EN)- Not published in the Official Journal].

The purpose of this Communication is to assess the progress achieved in terms of simplification since October 2005. The Commission notes a number of delays to its simplification strategy. In 2005-2006 it adopted 27 out of 71 scheduled initiatives. However, all the delayed initiatives were carried over to 2007. The Commission has adopted proposals in major areas for businesses and citizens, particularly customs code modernisation, the environment, and free movement of workers. It is adding 43 initiatives for the period 2006-2009. Concerning codification, 52 out of the 500 acts envisaged in the Commission's programme have been codified. The Commission then describes the main success factors in the implementation of the simplification strategy, such as methodology, inter-institutional cooperation, the increased use of co-regulation and self-regulation, and simplification at national level.


The importance of the normative contest

A normative contest more simple, facilitate the understanding of complicate legal European system  for the citizens. The strategy of simplification, adopt to the European Commission in the 2006, have help to numerous european people, to come near to “European World”. With the changes improve from Lisbon Strategy, this process of approach between European citizens and European Institution  is continued. Many importance have the powers gives to European Parliament, because it is the more next advisory body to citizens, and insert this organ in the co-decision procedure, it mean  give voice to base of European continent: the Citizens. Also the role entrusted to National Parliament is many important because the subsidiarity enable to the citizens of apply at more next national organ for the resolution of any problem, for then afford turn to the organ of superior importance.


Europe to the Europeans

Citizens could have a direct impact on EU law if the Treaty of Lisbon comes into force if they can gather at least 1 million signatures from across the EU. The treaty would allow citizens to ask new EU laws or a review of existing ones. The introduction of a such system of reform  of the treaty would make in the first example of direct democracy between several different countries.

In the Europe there is the need of develop a civil dialogue between comprehensive group. In the report showed to Genowefa Grabowska in the Committee meeting on 7 October, she calls on the EU institution to step up civil dialogue in all policy areas and formulate common, uniform and transparent rules and mechanisms for it. The deadline for amendments is 23 October and the report will probably be voted in the Committee on 2 December.

The hope is the one that the Europe will be always more social and less an Europe economic of the multinational.




                                                                                                  Alessandro Romano

                                                                           Università degli studi di Napoli “L'Orientale”

                                                                                                         Napoli - Italia