European Citizens’ Initiative
The Treaty of Lisbon allowed for an important new stage in the construction of European citizenship by strengthening participatory democracy and bringing European citizens to the centre of policy-making at the EU level.
The Treaty reinforces and adds content to European citizenship through the introduction of the European citizens' initiative. This innovative mechanism aims to enable a group of European citizens from different Member States to invite the European Commission to bring forward legislative proposals in areas where the Union has the competence to legislate, for example, on the environment, agriculture, transport, etc. This possibility was regulated in 2011 by Regulation (EU) no. 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2011 on the citizen's initiative and its subsequent amendments, and it may be summarised as follows:
Each European citizens' initiative must have the support of at least one million European Union citizens, of the minimum age required to exercise the right to vote according to national legislation, including residents in at least seven of the 27 Member States and obtain, in each of these states, a minimum number of subscribers, which varies according to each Member State.
However, prior to submitting the initiative, a citizens' committee must be formed, composed of at least seven European citizens residing in seven Union countries. This committee will be responsible for managing the entire process and collecting the signatures of European citizens.
Therefore, from 1 April 2012, it became possible for any citizen to prepare an initiative and form a citizens' committee together with at least six more European citizens (who may have the same nationality or a different nationality) but who must reside in different Member States.
Next, the initiative must be registered here and, after the European Commission confirms that the initiative is within the competence of the European Union, signatures of citizens (who, in Portugal, must be at least 18 years of age) may begin to be collected in at least seven European Union countries. However, to collect signatures (also called statements of support) electronically, a certification of the collection system must be obtained beforehand.
The next step is to request that the competent national authority attest to the validity of the signatures collected. For signatures collected in Portugal (minimum 16,500) the competent authority is the Central Registry – Institute of Registries and Notaries. Meanwhile, the remaining members of the citizens' committee should also be collecting signatures and have them validated in their own countries. It should be noted that the signature collection period cannot exceed 12 months. When at least one million signatures have been collected, the initiative can be presented to the European Commission, which can then set in motion the corresponding legislative procedure.
For further information, the European Commission has created a page on the European citizens' initiative, available here.