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Power to the people?

Reviewing the European Citizens' Initiative

Brussels, 2 May 2014 | Social

The European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) Day 2014 discussed the lessons learnt from the first two years of use of the citizens empowering instrument. Is there potential for the housing sector?


The need for an "ECI that works" has been stressed by most participants in the European Citizens' Initiative Day 2014 that reviewed the second year of existence of a tool that was meant to empower European Citizens and to urge them participate more actively in the legislative procedure of EU institutions. This attempt for direct and online democracy has been recognised as positive, while numerous aspects have to be improved before it's too late.

"The ECI should no longer be treated as a gadget of the European Commission, but as a standard tool of the new model of EU governance", claimed the EESC president, Henri Malosse. The European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly stressed the fact that "the ECI is the key to empowering EU citizens to take active part in EU decision-making". 

Carsten Berg has been one of the people who have been following the whole initiative closely from the very beginning, being the director of the ECI Campaign. Mr. Berg identified an urgent need to harmonise data requirements across the Member States, since that there way too many imbalances, e.g. Finland only asks for 4 data items, while other countries demand a full profile of the signatories. At the same time he has observed in a rather disappointing tone that the number of ECIs has been decreasing. "This should be seen as a red light", he said and suggested maximising the impact of the instrument, saying that if no legal and practical follow-up is ensured, the tool as a whole may be in danger. 

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The dire need to reduce signature collection barriers, harmonise the process across the EU and increase impact possibilities were among the main common issues that stakeholders and campaigners would like to see resolved. Although the procedure seems quite simple, there are not many successful examples that may lead the way. With "Right2Water" being by far the most significant one, collecting well over 1 million signatures in an attempt to defend water as a public good, more successfully completed ECIs are needed to increase the people's faith in this tool.

Is the affordable housing sector in position to pave the way with a universal ECI that reminds to the European Institutions that they have recognised access to decent housing as a fundamental human right? CECODHAS Housing Europe would like you, members, stakeholders and friends, to share your views on the topic. Can the European Citizens' Initiative be a bottom-up tool the affordable housing sector may use to defend people's rights? Join the discussion on twitter using the hashtag #housingECI.

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