With the Lisbon Treaty about to come into effect, new light is being shed on what it means when it talks about the Citizens’ Initiative. The European Commission has opened a public consultation to flesh out the practical details. The Citizens’ Initiative is a provision for one million citizens to request the Commission launch a specific policy proposal.
The consultation is to clarify what the text means when it says ordinary Europeans will have a direct influence on EU policy-making. European Policy Centre analyst Janis Emmanouilidis raises some questions: “When it says ‘a million signatures’, it does not say from how many countries; it does not specify how it garantees that these are original true signatures; it has to be defined in practice. What the Treaty also does not specify is what it means that the Commission is ‘invited’ to make a proposal. Is it obliged to (draw up) a proposal or is it only invited to do so. Many questions need to be settled, and the details figured out.” Brussels welcomes input on the consultation Green Paper by Internet by the end of January. European citizens’ closest influence on law-making so far has been through the members they directly elect in the EU parliament. The petition provision in the treaty is not the same as putting a question to a referendum.