After the ratification of the European Constitution, its implementation will bring many democratic improvements to the emerging European civil society. One of these improvements is undoubtedly the European citizens’ initiative as stated in Article 47.4 of the Constitution.
This article states: “Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Constitution. European laws shall determine the provisions for the procedures and conditions required for such a citizens' initiative, including the minimum number of Member States from which such citizens must come.”
JEF-Europe has already committed itself to make use of the article, but amassing a million signatures is not a task JEF can conduct on its own. UEF hereby states its determination to make use of this article in cooperation with JEF-Europe and other organisations that may wish to be involved and to collect a million signatures. By doing so, UEF will be able to show its determination to keep the reform process going after the adoption of the European Constitution, to make the EU more democratic and to communicate the European values to the citizens. This resolution will establish the framework in which such a campaign could be conducted; it does not aim to set the political direction for such a campaign.
UEF and JEF are aware that such a project will bring all organisations involved to the limits of their capacity. In order to make gathering one million signatures all over the EU realistic, some conditions must apply:
- UEF, JEF-Europe and any other organisations involved will have to face this project being completely united and determined to succeed.
- This project will have to be the first priority of UEF, JEF-Europe and any other organisations involved, and all of their national sections until its accomplishment.
- All national organisations of UEF and JEF will have to support the project not only ideally, but also by contributing substantially to it.
- Since funding of citizens initiatives by the European Commission is not very realistic, UEF, JEF-Europe and any other organisations involved will have to find access to new financial resources.
The choice of the topic for a citizens’ initiative will be just as crucial as the organisational structures. In order to collect signatures during a period of many months, the UEF and JEF volunteers will need a strong incentive. The topic can bring additional chances of success if the following conditions apply:
- The topic needs to reflect the top priorities of UEF and JEF.
- The topic needs to be clearly defined and easy to understand for citizens who are not politically interested. It must seem like the most obvious thing to ask for.
- The topic must not be narrowed down just to one specific, technical issue.
- The initiative needs a catchy headline, which describes the whole quest and positively prejudices the opinion of the reader.
- The quest needs to be politically realistic.
- The quest should be supported by other organisations to enhance its chances of success.
The exact project framework furthermore depends a lot from the European laws that will be passed in order to define the implementation of this article. The most important issues in this context will be:
- Signature control: a lot depends from the instance that will control the validity of the signatures. With very strict standard, it is possible that up to 20% of the collected signatures are not taken into account.
- Time limitation for collecting: with a strict time limitation, the planning of resources has to be extremely efficient.
- Availability of public funds: if public funds were not to be available, substitute resources would have to be found.
From the passing of this resolution, UEF and JEF will have to start adapting and preparing for the citizens’ initiative. The next steps on this road will be:
- From the number of topics debated among federalists, the most important and relevant one will have to be chosen to put forward in the citizens’ initiative and agreed between UEF, JEF-Europe and any other organisations involved.
- Building the internal know-how about gathering signatures in a big scale will have to be given the necessary priority in the choices of topic for future seminars.
- All UEF and JEF national organisations will need to adapt their agendas to the common project and give it the first priority during the project duration.
- UEF and JEF will have to adapt its structures in order to better be able to coordinate national and international projects. The communication between national and European level will have to be massively enhanced.
- Financial resources will have to be collected early enough.
- UEF and JEF will have to build up a network with other NGOs to strengthen the political and organisational capabilities to conduct a citizen’s initiative successfully. The citizen’s convention of Genoa on 3-4 December 2005 and the following UEF Congress will be important opportunities to build up such a network.
- UEF and JEF will have to monitor the development of European legislation on this issue and continually adapt the project to the legal framework.
- UEF and JEF shall establish the necessary political and organisational framework to make sure that a citizen’s initiative can be started directly after the ratification of the Constitution.
Resolution proposed by the Executive Bureau of the JEF-Europe and adopted by the Federal Committee of the UEF at its meeting on 10 April 2005