For those who watch the BBC’s Have I Got News For You programme will be familiar with the “Missing Words Round”, where newspaper headlines are displayed with certain words blanked out. Contestants have to guess the missing word.
So in that spirit let’s have a game of TBF’s “Missing Words Round”. From the paragraphs that follow try to guess the missing words in the BBC website headline above…and no cheating.
The BBC reports that:
“a grassroots initiative” [sic] to protect the quality of Europe’s drinking water and stop it being privatised has got on to the agenda of EU lawmakers in Brussels”. It is the first European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to reach that stage, the European Commission says.
Ah our old friend the European Citizens’ Initiative which was an ‘innovation’ of the Lisbon Treaty, and is laughably aimed at increasing democracy in the EU. So in the spirit of democracy I’ll produce a quick guide here on how to follow the procedure to “encourage” the EU Commission to legislate on matters that concerns EU citizens (my emphasis throughout):
- First you need find out if the initiative or idea is an EU Commission competence and that the proposed initiative is not manifestly contrary to the EU values as set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union. If not it immediately fails.
- Then a citizens’ initiative has to be proposed by a citizens’ committee composed of at least 7 EU citizens old enough to vote in European Parliament elections and living in at least 7 different member states. The committee must designate from among its members a representative and a substitute to speak and act on their behalf. These will be the contact persons who will liaise between the committee and the Commission throughout the procedure.
- Then before organisers can start collecting statements of support from citizens, they have to request the registration of their proposed initiative on this website. This includes providing personal details of the 7 required committee members (full names, postal addresses, nationalities and dates of birth), indicating specifically the representative and his/her substitute as well as their e-mail addresses and telephone numbers. And documents that prove the full names, postal addresses, nationalities and dates of birth of each of the 7 members of the citizens’ committee.
I hope you’re keeping up at the back…(and I have simplified this procedure somewhat).
- At the time of registration and throughout the procedure, organisers must provide up-to-date information on all sources of support and funding worth more than €500 per year and per sponsor.
- Organisers who wish to collect statements of support online must build an online collection system, accessible through their website, to ensure that data complies with EU data protection legislation.
Phew! Now we got that far, we can get going and collect some signatures:
- As soon as the registration of the proposed initiative has been confirmed, organisers can start collecting statements of support from citizens. They have 12 months to collect the required number of statements of support (1 million overall including a minimum number in at least 7 member states – see Minimum number of signatories per member state).
- Don’t forget in order to collect statements of support, organisers have to use specific forms which comply with the models for the statement of support form set out in Annex III of the Regulation on the citizens’ initiative, and which include all required information regarding the proposed initiative.
One the signature process is over, we then need a certification to prove the number of valid statements:
- Once organisers have collected the necessary statements of support, they must ask the competent national authorities in each member state where they have collected statements of support to certify the number of valid statements of support collected for that country.
This must happen within 3 months. If we complete these hurdles (and there a number of others as well) we can submit the initiative. In a further 3 months following the submission of the initiative:
- Commission representatives will meet the organisers so they can explain in detail the issues raised in their initiative.
- the organisers will have the opportunity to present their initiative at a public hearing in the European Parliament.
- the Commission will adopt a formal response spelling out what action it will propose in response to the citizens’ initiative, if any, and the reasons for doing or not doing so.
The Commission is not obliged to propose legislation as a result of an initiative, and the first ever petition to fulfil all the previous criteria didn’t count. No wonder that when looking the website we can see clearly that in a population of 500 million, there aren’t many petitions. The only ones that exist are as follows:
- 7 open
- 7 closed (failed)
- 6 withdrawn
- 5 failed due to lack of support
- and just 1 that has successfully been submitted to the Commission
After all that, did anyone guess the missing words? To delay not a moment longer, the answer is:
And just in case there is any doubt where the BBC’s sentiments lie, further down the article states this:
European Citizens’ Initiative: Direct democracy tool launched in April 2012
How the BBC has come to this conclusion is a wonderment to behold. Particularly as Switzerland, via (proper) Direct Democracy, recently backed a proposal to bring back strict quotas for immigration from EU countries. And now they are paying the price of the EU’s disappointment.