13 responses to “Citizens’ Initiatives, Petitions and Digital Media

  1. So glad to discover this blog! I’m a dual EU (French) and American citizen who worked in Brussels with the ECI Campaign in 2010-2011. So I naturally see the EU through American eyes…and vice versa.;-) I returned to Chicago in mid-2011 and am now working on D&D at a local level here.

    Some of what I’ve written about the ECI (as well as direct democracy in the USA) is on my blog at http://www.janicethomson.net. See also the briefing paper I wrote for Involve (UK) “A Space Inside Europe for the Public Before a European Public Space”. http://www.involve.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/ECI-A-Space-Inside-Europe-for-the-Public.pdf

    It’s too bad you didn’t arrive in Seattle sooner. It was host to the NCDD biannual conference in October 2012. Perusing that conference guidebook though might give you additional ideas of who to contact there about online public engagement: http://www.ncdd.org/files/NCDD2012_Guidebook.pdf

    • Thanks for the feedback and interesting links, Janice. I subscribed to your blog and look forward to further exchanges about digital engagement in the EU and USA!

  2. I received some interesting feedback via Twitter from the right2water ECI. Their initiative concerns the right to clean drinking water and quality sanitation. They have already reached an impressive 750,000 signatures and hope to reach the 1 million target by September 2013. More information here: http://www.right2water.eu/

  3. Thanks. My writing going forward though will probably focus on D&D in Chicago, not necessarily digital. But still you’re welcome to follow.

  4. Interesting comparison of the two models of citizens’ initiatives.
    One thing jumps out, the admission of an initiative is (seems?) much easier in the US than in the EU. Comparing only the admissibility threshold criterion, it appears that a minimum of 1,984 signatures by 1000 citizens is required in the EU for an initiative to be taken into consideration by the administration, for only…0,318 signatures in the US! The EU citizens’ initiative requires six times more signatures than the US equivalent, even though US threshold have been raised twice. And, the EU initiative has some other challenging criteria that are not easy to fulfill. The path seems (to me) therefore much more difficult in Europe than in the US. The good news is that the EU citizens’ initiative is on a test run and it will be reviewed in 2015.
    (my ratio calculations are based on population in 2012: 314M in the US, 504M in the EU).

    • Thanks for your observations, Claudio. The threshold is higher for the ECI, but it’s also important to note that the “prize” for gathering the required number of signatures is potentially higher. Within three months, successful ECIs will be offered the opportunity to meet with Commission representatives to discuss their initiative, a public hearing in the European Parliament and a formal response in the form of a Commission Communication in all EU languages. In the US system “if a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response”.

      • There seems to be some confusion here between the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), citizens’ initiatives in US states and countries like Switzerland, and petitions like the White House’s “We the People”. The ECI is stronger than a petition, but much, much weaker than a true “citizens’ initiative”. It is an instrument of participatory democracy, NOT direct democracy. It is actually unfortunate that it is named a “citizens’ initiative”, because it does not in fact work like one. This has created much misunderstanding about its true nature and how strict the EU implementing regulation really needs to be.

        “Citizens’ Initiatives” in US states like Washington, California, and Oregon (or in European countries like Switzerland or Germany lander), are instruments of DIRECT democracy. Initiatives with enough signatures go directly to the public for a popular vote, which if successful, is binding — i.e., the people create law directly. In the US, signatures must be collected in person, not online — which is very expensive.

        The White House’s “We the People” is a petition, not an initiative. It is completely toothless, a vehicle for public discussion.The USA does not have direct democracy at a national level, only the state level. See http://www.ballotpedia.org for state-by-state details.

        If an ECI is successful, all the Commission has to do is respond publicly to its topic. It does not even need to issue a proposal for regulatory change. Any proposals that are in fact issued will then go through regular EU legislative procedure. Given this, the regulation implementing the ECI is excessively restrictive. It should be closer to rules for non-binding petitions, as in the UK.

        To learn more about how “citizens’ initiatives” work around the world see the Initiative & Referendum Institute Europe. http://www.iri-europe.org/

        To learn more about how the citizens’ initiative works in California, Oregon, and Arizona, see my paper on direct democracy in the US West. I was invited to join this study tour because of my work on the ECI Campaign. So I looked at it through the lens of my experience in Europe with the ECI. The ECI is toothless compared to the power of initiatives in these states. http://tinyurl.com/75fejqe

  5. Francesco

    Hello Tony,

    while I very much appreciate you starting the debate, it shall be duly noted that the US “We The People” petition’s process may have a more precise correspondent in the EU petition’s system.

    While in the US presidential system, the process petitions the Executive Power, here in Europe, bastion of parliamentary democracy, the petition’s process centers around the political role of the European Parliament.

    I’d be glad to take the discussion further anytime!



  6. Janice, thanks again for sharing your experiences from both the USA and Europe!

  7. Pingback: Collaboration top priority for government communication | European Union 2.0

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