How Citizens Can Directly Set the EU's Agenda
In an effort to reduce the widening democracy disconnect between the European Union and citizens, in 2011 the EU put in place an initiative which allows citizens to petition for specific political or policy changes.
The European Citizens' Initiative allows EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies, by giving them a process to call on the European Commission to act on a specific legislative or policy idea.
Under the process, support for a citizens' initiative has to be signed by at least one million EU citizens within a year of the proposal being lodged on the website of the European Citizens' Initiative.
Support from citizens must come from at least 7 out of the 28 member states.
The proposal must also relate to a policy or legislative area over which the Commission has powers, such as the environment, agriculture or public health.
Once the requisite number of signatures has been collected, organisers of the proposal meet with Commission officials to explain and discuss their case and then have the opportunity to present their initiative to a public hearing of the European Parliament.
The Commission will then decide on a formal response to the citizens’ initiative. The response can include taking no action.
Proposals which have been registered to date include calls for policies and legislation to tackle growing inequality, enhancing animal rights and protections, and improved access to better sanitation.
Thumbnail image: European Parliament, Brussels. By Xaf/Flickr