European citizens’ initiative update for Luxembourg (and “Warming up for the ECI” conference review)
I previously wrote that there were some remaining obstacles for an accessible European citizens’ initiative (“ECI”) in Luxembourg. On January 25th the Commission on Institutions and Constitutional Revision of the Luxembourgish Parliament (“the commission”) discussed the draft law and made some (but no enough) modifications to the text. At the end of this post I’ll shortly review the “Warming up for the ECI” conference in Brussels on January 26th.
ECI in Luxembourg: ID requirement stays, but verification free of charge for organizers
ID requirement stays – for no good reason
Despite the strong reservations of the National Data Protection Commission, the draft law still provides that supporters of an ECI have to give their “matricule” (ID number/social security number) when signing a petition.1 In earlier discussions “governmental experts” pointed out that this was the “only reliable way” to check the validity of the signatures2 and that the EU regulation3 cannot be modified. Because of the “urgency” of the matter, the ID requirement stays in the draft law. The commission4 points out that a modification of the requirement of ID number might be considered in the future in application of article 5, paragraphe 4, of EU regulation 211/2011.5
Conlusion: The requirement of ID number will stay in the Luxembourgish law regulating EU regulation 211/2011 and as such make the ECI less accessible for Luxembourgish EU citizens. I think it is very improbable that a modification of the information published in Annexe III of EU regulation 211/2011 will succeed in the near future.
Signature verification free of charge
The draft law regulating the ECI in Luxembourg provided that the way the costs of verification and/or certification of signatures and/or online collection software6 were distributed could be fixed in a governmental regulation. This paragraph was deleted to avoid that the ECI would be “limited to persons or organizations with high financial possiblilities”.
Conclusion: certification of online collection software and verification of signatures will be free of charge for ECI organizers, reducing the financial burdens on the citizens’ committee.
Final thoughts on ECI regulation and application in Luxembourg
Luxembourg will be ready for April 1st and the official launch of the European Citizens’ Initative. The ID requirement will make it more difficult for ECI organizers to collect signatures, however if the topic of the initiative transcends political barriers, I believe it is entirely possible to find 4.500 supporters in Luxembourg.
Now it is necessary to make citizens aware that the ECI actually exists, what it does, how to use it. Interest in the matter seems very limited at the moment – apart from the press release from the Pirate Party no other political party or NGO commented on the ECI7. I received not one answer of the commission members discussing the draft law. This lack of interest needs to change for the ECI to work in the near future – that’s why I hope to organize an information conference/seminar/workshop, hopefully with the support of many political parties and NGOs, to make this new tool of citizens’ participation in the EU known to the general public.8
PS: “Warming up for the ECI” conference review
On January 26th the European Commission organized the “Warming Up for the Citizens’ Initative” conference in Brussels. The conference was live streamed and people had the chance to ask questions remotely9. The most important part about participating was the socializing effect – meet up in person with people that support the same ideas and build relationships.10 This is especially important with the ECI as cross-border cooperation is essential to organize a successful ECI.
I was disappointed by the panels and speeches – only few speakers dared pointing out risks and faults of the ECI or note the possible hurdles for organizers. Only the panel “The follow up to an initiative” with Members of the European Parliament delivered a balanced view of the topic. In the “Potential for using Social Networks” panel concrete answers were only given by the panelists after questions from the conference participants (rather than encouraged by the moderator). The “highlight” of the conference was the revelation of the new website for the ECI – announced by the speaker as an “exciting rollercoster-ride” the functioning of the official ECI website was demonstrated by a 30+ minutes Power Point presentation(!).
Despite the rather disappointing panels and speeches, visiting the conference was a good decision – Brussels is an amazing city, direct contact with people from all over Europe and the world is always exciting and interesting and meeting the people in person who fight for the same thing and prepare for possible future ECI is inspiring.11
The recording of the conference should be available in the next few days.
- All documents available on the website of the Parliament. The most recent document with the latest version of the draft law can be found here. ↩
- Oddly enough for national referenda the local register of voters is considered sufficient to validate the signatures. ↩
- providing that Luxembourg is a country with ID requirement ↩
- Due to sloppy record keeping no names or party affiliations are available. ↩
- Contradicting the earlier statement about the impossibility to change the draft law because of an EU regulation having direct effect. ↩
- The draft law was not clear in that aspect as it forwarded to the wrong article in EU regulation. ↩
- Please correct me if I’m wrong and missed something! ↩
- If you’re reading this and are interested in joining the preparations send me an E-Mail at email@example.com ↩
- Even if this possibility was used sparingly ↩
- Some call this lobbyism ↩
- The buffets are also pretty good! ↩