Direct democracy in action or a potential tool to manipulate the masses? Citizens’ Initiatives are petitions that could allow one million EU citizens to change EU law. MEPs and the Commission must hammer out the legal basis by the end of the year.
Now that the Lisbon treaty is in force who could start a petition? Lobbies and pressure groups can’t manipulate the citizens’ initiative. You need at least one million signatures, which come from a minimum number of states and be representative. The more signatures, the better. The Commission says the petition must concern at least 1/3 of the EU or 9 countries. MEPs want to push the threshold lower to 6 or 7 countries or 1/4 of Member States. The main condition is that petitioners represent at least 0.2% of the population. Could a petition be launched online? At present the Commission remains unconvinced. But the NGOs like the idea. But who will check the signatures and how? It’s not necessary to check every signature, we only check a sample, so let’s say 5% to find out whether it’s consistent or not. Then by mathematical and statistical means you can see whether the amount is reached or not. This will be sufficient. Once the petition is submitted when will the Commission answer citizens? The Commission will have six months to reply, so long as the petition is valid. But MEPs haven't had their final say. The legal framework for the new citizens’ initiative must be adopted before the end of the year.