Wednesday 19 May 2010

ECI: State of discussions in the Council

The debates around the regulation of the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) continue in the EU Council.

Following the identification of key issues (my report), discussions in the Council show that member states seem to be split over most of these key issues.

In a Council document published yesterday, one can see that EU member states have diverging opinions on the admissibility check, regarding the personal data needed with the signature to an ECI and to the online collection system.

The main debate seems to be over the question of personal data and online collection of signatures.

Some member states apparently complained that for administrative reasons they won't be able to quickly check whether online collection systems from ECI organisers fulfil the required specification. Because of these questions, the Council has decided to organise an expert meeting that will try to resolve these differences.

One thing that seems to be consensus among the member states is that they don't want to give delegated power to the Commission in specifying the details of the citizens initiative as formulated in the Annexes 2-8 of the draft regulation, which means that any future revision of the technical details of the ECI except for the number of signatures needed per country would need to go through the decision-making process of the Council and the Parliament.

Seeing the differences between the member states I have doubts that there will be a regulation until the end of the autumn, in particular since after the Council has a first position there will have to be an agreement between the Parliament and the Council.


martinned said...

Is there any news yet from the Parliament? According to the Fiche de procédure, only the main committee responsible, AFCO, has appointed a rapporteur (= the rapporteur). The others (CULT, LIBE and PETI) have yet to follow. (BTW, why is the committee for Culture and Education involved in this?) That's about as much as I can glean from here.

Given that it seems as if the Council is going fairly intergovernmental on this, there is ample scope for a big EP/Council blowup. And unless the EP can somehow get national voters interested in this topic, I don't see why either side would back down. In that scenario, this could easily take until the fall of 2011.

As a matter of simple arithmatic, after the Council's common procedure the deadlines are 3 months, 3 months, 6 weeks and 6 weeks for the EP's second reading, the Council's second reading, the convening of the Conciliation committee and the decision in Conciliation. Even though that last one isn't normally used, the others still add up to 7½ months, which I don't think includes August. A "nice" bit of trench warfare in first reading brings us to an EP first reading shortly after they reconvene after August, and a Council first reading at the end of the Belgian Presidency.

All of this assumes that the supranational side of the argument in the Council will lose, as it usually does, and that the EP will feel pretty strongly that that side should have won.

Julien Frisch said...

I haven't heard much from the EP lately, and I agree with your observations regarding the timeframe and the intergovernmental approach of the Council, although the doubts by some member states about their capacity to approve the electronic voting system could at least lead to a supranational solution in this regard. Maybe...