Thursday, 15 April 2010

The European Citizens' Initiative and our re:publica 10 workshop

The European Commission has brutally failed, judging from some blank faces in our workshop on the European Citizens' Initiative at the re:publica 10 this morning.

Those European citizens present at the session - approximately 50 to 60 people - were to a large extend not aware of the current proposal of the European Commission for an initiative that is meant to be for European citizens. It needed four eurobloggers - eurosocialiste, Martin, Jon and me - to present the issue and to create stunned faces over the stupidness of the proposed rules (see Mathew's summary of euroblog reactions so far).

The lack of knowledge of the proposal shows that, until today, Commissioner Šefčovič has been unable to communicate the Commission proposal to a wider European public, and he probably knows why:

Because he has put forward a text that wants to restrict European citizens from running bottom-up campaigns; he put forward a proposal that doesn't trust citizens and that surrenders to technology-averse populist fears of "bad things that could come out of Twitter" (that is what the Commissioner said in the press conference where he presented the issue).

Bye the way, Mr Šefčovič: In one of those "stupid" "silly" Twitter/Facebook things you are afraid of we managed the collective translation of an ECI-length text in 33 languages within one week, including all EU languages and some minority languages such as Sorbian or Cornish.

So during the re:publica 10 workshop, we eurobloggers on the panel were very sure that the ECI as proposed by the Commission so far is undoable for ordinary citizens, it is way too restrictive and it doesn't take into account the great possibilities that modern communication offers. It is a European Initiative for Large Organisations, those who already have access to the EU institutions thanks to their money and the human resources.

It puts undue burdens on citizen organisers of an ECI, e.g. by demanding to register their online collection system in each of the EU member states, a bureaucratic procedure that will very likely lead to different results in every second member states, even after the Commission has proposed harmonised rules. Not to speak about the need to register ID card numbers when signing the petition. It also does not allow the collection of signatures from French EU citizens in the streets of Berlin or from Portuguese citizens on the beach of Varna (Bulgaria).

It is meant to be impossible, and it is so on purpose - you can see that because the Commission just plans to employ two stuff members for all ECIs that might come up.

And no one in the audience disagreed with our rather critical assessment of the ECI proposal; those talking were pretty sure that you couldn't run an ECI without the support of strong transnational organisations.

Several didn't even see a point in doing an ECI as it is presented right now, and we encouraged them to heavily lobby the European Parliament and the governments in the EU Council to get a final proposal that is not afraid of citizens but takes them seriously.

Dear MEPs, dear governments: Show that you have more respect for us citizens and more understanding for the usefulness of modern technology for democratic processes than the EU Commission, in particular Commissioner Šefčovič who showed his disrespect during his presentation three weeks ago!


Joe Litobarski said...

Meanwhile, eurobloggers are experimenting with social media and getting mock ECI proposals translated into all official EU languages in less than 24 hours.

I want to see what Bloggingportal can accomplish with social media - so I've started another experiment:

JEF Europe said...

Hi Julien, thx for these very relevant remarks. We should indeed lobby MEPs and governments and this can be done by this open letter:

Please feel warmly invited to spread the news in the blogosphere and forward the link to any political representatives you know.