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The ECI Watch is the newsletter of the ECI Support Centre. The ECI Support Centre is a joint initiative of the European Citizen Action Service, Democracy International, the Initiative and Referendum Institute Europe and ClicknSign.
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    ECI Watch, July 2015

In this issue

Recent Developments
Hearings and Campaigns
Resources and Upcoming Dates
Where are we in the process of the so-called review of the Reg. 211/2011? Let's make a summary of what has happened and where we are going.
 
Article 22 of the Reg. 211/2011 states that "By 1 April 2015, and every three years thereafter, the Commission shall present a report to the European Parliament
and the Council on the application of this Regulation."

On April 1st, the European Commission released a Report on the Application of the Regulation (here). The European Parliament also worked in parallel on a report on the ECI. The AFCO Committee has proposed a motion for resolution available here. Both the JURI and the PETI Committee released an opinion on the ECI, which was then submitted to the AFCO Committee before the meeting on 6th of July (watch the debate). In the AFCO Committee an overall list of 127 amendments has been drafted, showing the interest MEPs have in improving the instrument for the better. At the same time the Latvian Presidency of the EU organised a joint event on the ECI on the 16th of June. Please consult the report here.

Now it is up to the European Commission to inform both citizens and ECI organisers on the next steps. Is the Commission taking the review seriously enough to come up with a strategy to revise the Regulation as stated multiple times by stakeholders, ECI organisers and MEPs? The Commission can modify part of the Regulation, without revising the overall text (simply with a delegated act), however more structural reforms are needed to ensure that the instrument has a real impact in the decision-making process and that its pitfalls are finally adressed and resolved.

Read and consult the latest reports from the European Parliament on ECI:

 
Draft report SCHOPFLIN_Explanatory statement: European Citizens' Initiative bg cs da de el en es et fi fr hu it lt lv mt nl pl pt ro sk sl sv
Amendments 1-127 to draft report SCHOPFLIN: European Citizens' Initiative cs da de el en es fr hr it nl pl pt ro sv
JURI Draft Opinion on the European Citizens' Initiative bg cs da de el en es et fi fr hr hu it lt lv mt nl pl pt ro sk sl sv
PETI Opinion on the European Citizens' Initiative en

The ECI and the Promise of Participatory Democracy

Read more:
 
 
On May 11th, the organizers of the Stop Vivisection initiative, André Ménache, Gianni Tamino and Claude Reiss, had a meeting with European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness and Director-General Karl Falkenberg, responsible for DG Environment. On the same day, the organizers were also involved in a public hearing at the European Parliament to provide clarifications on the objectives of their request. More information on the initiative is available here.

Stop Vivisection is the third European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) submitted to the European Commission on March 3rd, by collecting 1.17 million signatures from EU citizens.  The initiative proposes to repeal Directive 2010/63/EU1 on the protection of animals used for scientific purposes and propose a new proposal that aims to phase out animal testing in scientific experiments on the basis that animal experiments do not provide data directly relevant for human species.  

Being bound by the articles set out in the Lisbon Treaty to act on an ECI within three months of submission, the Commission presented its response on June 3rd. In its response, the Commission argued that while the EU is committed to animal welfare, it also striving strives to protect human health and the environment. As such explains that Directive 2010/63/EU “states that the final goal is a full phasing out of animal testing, but acknowledges that animal use is still necessary on the way to reaching this goal.”
 
 
On July 1st, an evaluation and Fitness Check Roadmap for the Drinking Water Directive 98/83/EC was published by the European Commission. Under the Better Regulation Agenda, Roadmaps are documents published to inform citizens and stakeholders about new initiatives and foster their engagement by allowing for a feedback mechanism in any language of the EU, which is then taken into account by the Commission when drafting policy proposals. There are two types of roadmaps: for new major initiatives and for evaluations and Fitness Checks. The former intends to present the description of a problem, outline the objectives to be achieved and explain the necessity for EU action along with policy alternatives. The latter, applicable to the Right2Water Initiative that paved the way for the evaluation of the existing Drinking Water Directive,  presents the scope of the evaluation and the issues to be examined in the context of an evaluation.

The publication of the Roadmap has been very timely as a report released by the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI Committee) a month earlier in June, has called for action by the Commission to revise the Drinking Water Directive, in accordance with the Right2Water Initiative, to recognize water as a universal human right and ensure its universal access. The ENVI Committee noted that failure of the Commission to act in this manner will result in “the ECI losing credibility as a democratic mechanism in the eyes of the citizens.”

Right2Water is the first initiative, with the support of almost 1.9 million EU citizens, to have met the requirements set out in Regulation (EU) No 211/2011 on the citizens’ initiative and on which the Commission has taken steps to act on March 19, 2014.  The initiative strives to guarantee water and sanitation for all in Europe, liberalize water services from internal market rules and ensure universal access to water and sanitation. In April, Right2Water Initiative succeeded in gaining recognition for human right to water and sanitation from all UN Member States as a universal right binding under international human rights law. Read the report here.
 
Everyone has a Right2Water!
 
 
Ever since the Maastricht Treaty, European Union citizens have had the right to petition the European Parliament (EP). However, while petitioning is a fundamental right exercised through the petitions addressed to the EP’s Committee in Petitions (PETI Committee), the Commission and the national parliaments have both been widely criticized, respectively on lack of responsiveness and engagement.

In order to address some of these issues, PETI committee organized a public hearing with experts on the Right to Petition on June 23rd. The hearing, consisting of two panels, aimed to allow for fruitful discussion on the petition process, cooperation with national and European authorities and future action plans between Member states, the general public and experts in the field.

The first panel presented the Right to Petition as a fundamental right within the EU, including the recent jurisprudence of the ECJ. The second panel addressed the impact of the PETI Committee on European law and policy-making processes including e-Participation and e-Democracy platforms.

 
See the programme details here.
 
The web streaming of the public hearing on June 23rd can be accessed here
 
 

Make Your Voice Heard in Europe
 

In its campaign to save the ECI, Democracy International collected almost 20,000 signatures for a more accessible, dynamic and powerful European Citizens’ Initiative. The petition will be handed over after the summer break when the European Parliament will decide on the future of the ECI.
 
But before that, on 22 September 2015, the EU Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) will be laying the grounds in an important vote on the ECI. This will be a unique opportunity for citizens and civil society across Europe to write to those Members of the European Parliament and call on them to stand up for the citizens and for real democratic change.
 
If you want to take part in the email drive to tell the Members of the European Parliament in advance of their vote that you want a stronger ECI, please sign the petition or register here to stay informed!
  • 01/07/2015 - Right2Water - The Roadmap  for the evaluation of the Drinking Water Directive has been published. If you wish, you can provide feedback on the Roadmap.
  • 16/06/2015 - The European Citizen's Initiative and the Promise of Participatory Democracy Conference 
  • 03/06/2015 - The European Commission has adopted the Communication in response to the third successful European Citizens' Initiative, Stop Vivisection.
  • 11/05/2015 - A public hearing on the third initiative submitted to the Commission, Stop Vivisection, has taken place at the European Parliament. For more information, please consult a dedicated page on the European Parliament website .
  • 11/05/2015 - The organisers of the Stop Vivisection initiative met with European Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen, responsible for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness and Director-General Karl Falkenberg, responsible for DG Environment. See press release.
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