European Citizens' Initiatives were introduced with the Lisbon Treaty and launched as an agenda-setting tool in the hands of citizens in April 2012, upon the entry into force of the European Citizens' Initiative Regulation which implements the Treaty provisions.
Once formally registered, a European Citizens' Initiative allows 1 million citizens from at least one quarter of EU Member States to invite the European Commission to propose a legal act in areas where the Commission has the power to do so.
The conditions for admissibility, as foreseen by the European Citizens' Initiative Regulation, are that the proposed action does not manifestly fall outside the framework of the Commission's powers to submit a proposal for a legal act, that it is not manifestly abusive, frivolous or vexatious and that it is not manifestly contrary to the values of the Union.
Non-legislative improvements to the tool have been implemented in the past 3 years. The Juncker Commission has also taken a more political approach, with all requests for registration (before signatures can be collected) now being heard by the College of Commissioners and partial registrations being granted in some cases. These changes have resulted in a significant increase of the number of initiatives accepted for registration: about 90% of proposed initiatives since April 2015, compared to 60% of all proposals in the previous 3-year period.
Among the 4 Citizens' Initiatives that gathered support from over 1 million citizens, the Commission is following up on the 'Stop Vivisection' initiative with non-legislative actions; in response to the 'Right2Water' initiative, the Commission proposed a revised Directive on Drinking Water last February; and following the initiative 'Ban glyphosate and toxic pesticides', the Commission has announced a legislative proposal to improve transparency in scientific assessments and decision-making.
After the Commission's first Report on the Application of the European Citizens' Initiative, in March 2015, a review was launched to improve the effectiveness of the tool, including an open public consultation. The Commission subsequently proposed a new Regulation on 13 September 2017, which must now be adopted by the European Parliament and Council. The new Regulation will make the European Citizens' Initiative more accessible, less burdensome and easier to use for organisers and supporters. The Commission calls for its adoption by the end of 2018 so that it can enter into force in January 2020
The proposals will be discussed with stakeholders at the 'ECI Day' organised by the European Economic and Social Committee on 10 April.