Work Programme 2017: EU Citizens’ Rights to be Promoted but Still No Progress on the ECI
On 25 October, the 2017 Work Programme of the Juncker Commission was presented to the European Parliament. ECAS welcomes the Commission’s commitment to promoting awareness among citizens and companies of their rights and upgrading and streamlining existing problem-solving tools. The 20-year-old Your Europe Advice service of the European Commission, proudly managed by ECAS, plays a key role in this respect by answering more than 22,000 requests for legal advice every year from citizens and businesses who exercise their free movement rights in the EU.
No progress on the ECI
However, the lack of commitment to revise the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) regulation in order to make it “fit for purpose” is disappointing. Despite declaring the Commission’s overarching priority to be “A Europe that takes responsibility, listens and delivers”, citizen engagement is notably absent from the 2017 Work Programme.
The ECI receives no mention at all, in particular under priority 10 on ‘a Union of Democratic Change’, despite the recommendation of the REFIT Platform for Better Regulation to make it “fit for purpose”, which was prepared by ECAS’ Director Assya Kavrakova as a member of the stakeholder group for this platform, set up by the Commission in 2015 to improve EU law. In response to this recommendation, the Commission has simply indicated that “it will consider this (opinion) when it takes measures to simplify the implementation of the ECI” (see page 30 of the REFIT Scoreboard)
More needed on citizen engagement
The Work Programme also fails yet again to make the connection between the Digital Single Market and digital democracy, overlooking the great potential that Information and Communication Technology offers for citizens’ e-participation. Instead, it is limited only to the opportunities that digital technologies generate for creativity, business and employment.
Concrete measures are required to address the severe lack of citizen-engagement in the EU and rebuild trust in the European project. The EU needs to develop innovative ways of engaging with its citizens and including them in the policy-making process, and urgently needs to address the rising tide of euroscepticism and apathy across Europe, particularly amongst young people.
The EU needs more than ever to be both relevant and connected to its citizens.
Work Programme 2017
REFIT ECI recommendation