European citizens’ initiative
The European citizens’ initiative (ECI) is a tool for direct democracy which enables a minimum of one million EU citizens of voting age to call on the European Commission to propose legislation on matters where the Commission is competent. The EU’s citizens’ initiative scheme is regulated by the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the citizens’ initiative.
How to organise an initiative
To make a European citizens’ initiative, the proposers or organisers must form a citizens’ committee made up of at least seven EU citizens and living in at least seven different EU countries. Committee members must be nationals of an EU country and old enough to vote in European Parliament elections. The citizens’ committee must designate a representative and a substitute to liaise between the committee and institutions of the EU.
Before the organisers begin to collect statements of support concerning a citizens’ initiative, they must register the initiative with the European Commission. The Commission will register the proposed citizens’ initiative within two months if it meets the following conditions:
- a citizens’ committee has been formed and the contact persons have been designated
- the proposed citizens’ initiative does not manifestly fall outside the competence of the Commission to submit a legislative proposal to implement the EU treaties
- the proposed citizens’ initiative is not manifestly abusive, frivolous or vexatious
- the proposed citizens’ initiative is not manifestly contrary to the EU’s values as set out in Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.
Collection of statements of support
Statements of support from at least one million EU citizens of voting age must be collected to support an initiative. The number of signatories of an initiative must exceed the minimum number required for each state in at least seven EU member states.
The minimum number of signatories per member state has been set out in the Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the citizens’ initiative. The minimum number of signatories in Finland is 9,750. However, even if the statements of support given by Finnish citizens do not reach the minimum national threshold, they will also all be counted to reach the one million target.
Statements of support must be collected within one year from the registration of the initiative with the European Commission. Collection must comply with the EU’s Data Protection Directive and the national provisions based on it (in Finland, the Personal Data Act).
Statements of support may be collected electronically or in paper form. Software developed by the European Commission is available for the collection of statements of support electronically, but other software may also be used. However, all online collection systems must be certified by the state authority where the statements of support collected by an online system are stored. In Finland, the systems are certified by Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority (Ficora).
Statements of support collected in paper form must comply with a specific form.
The organisers must collect the family name, full first names, date of birth, country of permanent residence and nationality for Finnish citizens signing statements of support. Statements of support must be kept secret and a citizens’ committee may disclose personal data only to the authority responsible for certifying the statements of support.
The organiser's data protection duties
Certification of statements of support
Once signatures have been collected from at least a million people, the statements of support must be sent for certification to the authorities in the member state of which the signatory of the statement of support is a national or where he or she lives permanently. The Digital and Population Data Services Agency is responsible for certifying the signatures of Finnish citizens and EU citizens who live in Finland. The Agency checks all statements of support collected electronically by comparing the information in the statements to the data in the Population Information System. Statements of support in paper form are checked by random sampling.
After certification, the authorities of the member states give the representative of the citizen’s committee a decision on the correctness of the statements of support. If enough valid statements of support have been collected, the citizens’ committee can submit the initiative to the European Commission.
The Commission will make an announcement within three months setting out its legal and political conclusions concerning the citizen’s initiative and the actions it intends to take in response to it and the reasons for the actions. If the Commission does not intend to take action, it should also give reasons for refraining from action.
Detailed instructions on how to make a European citizens’ initiative can be found in the guide published by the European Commission.
Senior Specialist Otto Palmu, tel. +358 295 535 137