The ECI is a mechanism of the European Union enabling direct democratic participation of EU citizens. It provides an opportunity for citizens, particularly young people, to implement change and put their ideas on the European agenda and directly call on the European Commission to propose new laws.
To do this, the organisers of a citizens' initiative, also known as a citizens', committee, must be composed of at least 7 EU citizens, living in at least 7 different Member States. After the initiative has been formed and registered with the European Commission's website in one of the 23 official languages of the EU, there is a time span of 1 year for the citizens' committee to collect the necessary support and 1 million certified online signatures in order for the ECI to be reviewed by the European Commission. Successful initiatives which reach 1 million signatures will participate in a hearing at the European Parliament to present the ECI. Subsequently, the European Commission will have 3 months to decide how it shall act on the initiative. It is also noteworthy that it is not binding for the European Commission to act on or adopt the ECI.
More information and a database of current ECIs can be found here.
Our desire to contribute to an educated youth and empower the leaders of tomorrow is the driving force for this decision: by widening the scope of our conference to the youth of Bulgaria, we are aiming to involve them in an unparalleled European discourse. As citizens living in the European Union, the politics discussed in the European institutions impact our daily lives. Yet, not all topics which are important to us are being addressed or even part of the European agenda. Because of this, we wanted to show that there are many ways for European citizens to get involved. If our voices are not heard, nothing will change. There are multiple ways European citizens can actively engage, besides voting – yet these tools are usually not widely used. This is the reason we decided to shed light on one such participatory democratic tool: the European Citizens Initiative (ECI). With the rise of scepticism towards the European Union and its institutions, there is a pressing need for more educational projects which highlight the importance of active citizenship as a vital part of democracy. Young people will be the future decision makers and it is concerning to see that traditionally the Bulgarian youth forms the least active group in all types of elections. In the last European Parliament elections, the youth in Bulgaria, aged 18-29, was the group with the smallest share of voters, amounting to only 12%. The number of voters in national elections is even lower: in the 2019 Sofia regional election young people were the least active group once again, with only 11%. We believe that educating young people about ways to get involved as a citizen is the core foundation needed for a democratic society and a more stable European Union.
In order to raise awareness about concrete means of exercising EU citizenship, we have partnered up with 3 Bulgarian high schools from 3 different regions. To prepare them to engage with European participatory democracy, we held a preparatory workshop, where the European Union, opportunities and the ECI were explained. Additionally, a panel discussion has been held called “Citizens’ Participation in the EU”. With these tools, they were able to develop ideas for their own European Citizens’ Initiatives. Have a detailed look at the figure below for more details on the process in action!