Van Bommel: Stop sabotage of European Citizens’ Initiative

22 June 2012

Van Bommel: Stop sabotage of European Citizens’ Initiative

One of the few democratic improvements contained in the Lisbon Treaty, the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), is threatened by severe limitation in its implementation, fears SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel. The ECI enables anyone who can gather sufficient signatures to request the European Commission to come forward with a legislative initiative addressing their concerns. The Commission may not, however, be ensuring the availability of sufficient capacity to help citizens, meaning that certain initiatives would be unjustly rejected. 'Many people already feel themselves to be unrepresented in the European Union,’ Van Bommel warns. ‘The Commission should not be frustrating the only possibility for citizens of the member states to influence European policy. The Netherlands must tell the Commission this in no uncertain terms.’

Harry van BommelIn practice the Commission turns out to already be rejecting initiatives all too quickly with the argument that they do not have the power to propose legislation in the area concerned. In Van Bommel’s view, this argument is reached for far too readily. ‘European legislation is extremely complicated,’ he says. ‘The Commission should proceed from the principle of looking at what it can do and, with the people presenting an ECI, look for a form of words which fits best its powers Then more capacity would indeed be needed to assist the public, and as things stand it falls well short.’

Another complaint is that the Commission has still not established a European electronic system where signatures can be registered. Van Bommel says that he finds this ‘scandalous’, adding that ‘the Lisbon Treaty has been in force since 1st December 2009. It was almost a year before the ECI was translated into the necessary legislation. Obviously no priority is accorded to the voices of the public.’

Van Bommel has now presented the government with a written question asking for its observations.

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