EU welcomes citizens to change the legislation

Written by Group 2: Johanna Nykopp, Jenni Tepsa, Anna Vanninen

Citizens are allowed to suggest directly new EU legislations after the 1st of April 2012. However, the new opportunity for citizens to participate in the EU legislation doesn’t obligate the EU Commission to any actions. In Finland, the citizen initiative already is in action.

Maroš Šefčovič,Vice-President for Inter-institutional Relations and Administration is pleased that the Parliament and Council have managed to reach agreement on the Citizens’ Initiative this quickly. “The ECI is a major step forward in the democratic life of the Union. It’s a concrete example of bringing Europe closer to its citizens. And it will [—] contribute, we hope, to the development of a real European public space.”

This is how it works

Initiatives must be organized by a Citizens’ Committee. It has to be backed by at least one million EU citizens from seven or more EU member countries. It also has to be composed of at least seven EU citizens, who are resident in at least seven different EU countries. Members of the European Parliament cannot be counted among the seven citizens needed.

The minimum age required is the voting age for European Parliament elections. At the moment this means 18 in every EU country except Austria where it is 16.

After getting the certificates, the initiators must submit their initiative to the Commission. After this the Commission has three months to examine it and decide what kind, if any, actions it will take. During this period, the Commission will meet the initiators and they can explain the issues. The initiators have also the opportunity to present their initiative at a public hearing organized at the European Parliament.

Finland is a leader in Nordic Countries

Citizens initiative is tried also in Finland. The Fins are allowed to suggest laws to the Finnish Parliament. Finland’s own Citizens’ Initiative comes into effect in March 2012.

Finnish initiative must be signed by at least 50 000 persons entitled to vote. The first initiatives are about abrogating the dog taxation law and changing the student grant law.

“We want to make sure that citizen initiatives are as high-rate as possible so that they  are taken seriously in the parliament, says the Open ministry -project coordinator Joonas Pekkanen. Finland was the first Nordic country where the right to execute citizen initiatives was carried out.

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