A friend pointed me to the Working Document on a proposal for a regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the citizens’ initiative from the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs. Rapporteurs for this are Zita Gurmai and Alain Lamassoure.
This is not the first time I’ve dealt with this topic – I was critical of the Commission’s original proposal in April, and other Eurobloggers were united in their disdain. Maroš Šefčovič is the Commissioner responsible – hence why he’s pictured above.
Yet what have Gurmai and Lamassoure come up with? Surely the European Parliament should know a thing or two about democracy?
Seems not… Here are a few choice quotes from the document:
5.1. Would it make sense to ask for the organisers to have the support of some directly elected persons who would endorse the initiative? If so, how many of them should support it and should they come from at least a quarter of the MS as well or would it just introduce an unwelcome dose of representative democracy into the process?
5.2. Should we ask the organisers to provide a deposit which would naturally be given back to them if the ECI turns out to be successful – ?
10. In order to protect the Commission from being accused of deciding on the admissibility of an ECI on political grounds rather than on legal ones – which would undermine its credibility and cast doubt over the whole process -, it might make sense for it to not be the only organ that will make this decision in the first place. This would avoid the Commission being both judge and jury and it would also prevent it from being overwhelmed.
11. It might be more appropriate to appoint an ad hoc “wise people committee”, gathering some experts, scholars and/or jurists, so that they would be as impartial as possible.
So there we have it. Members of the European Parliament, when preparing a working document about the citizens’ initiative, ask whether it should be necessary for elected representatives to support it, whether financial means need to be demonstrated, and then propose to slow down and bureaucratise the process by getting a bunch of “wise men” to advise on the admissibility of an initiative.
As if that were not enough they propose no change to the 1 year limit to collect signatures (have either them ever tried to collect 1 million signatures?) and seem to confuse themselves about whether individuals or organisations (legal persons) should be doing the collecting.
The only positive point is that they state the admissibility check should be performed at the 5000 signatures stage (rather than 300000 as proposed by the Commission).
Now I know this is only a working document, but seriously, this document is dire. Utterly dire. How do 2 MEPs even think to raise the issue citizens would be asked to put forward a deposit to be able to propose a citizens initiative? While the Commission’s original proposal seemed to seek to distance that institution from responsibility, this working document from the EP aims to pour cold water on any notion that participatory democracy, as if that could somehow challenge the house elected by the people.
[UPDATE – 28.7.2010]
The European Citizens Action Services are running a short questionnaire about the ECI – do head over to their site and answer the few short questions!