Wednesday, 11 November 2009

EU citizens' initiative raises political and legal headaches

The EU has opened the door to direct democracy to the citizens of member states but are making sure there are enough limits in place not to let them get out of control. Time will tell if this becomes what it should be for the citizens or a tool for interest groups.
clipped from euobserver.com

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Hailed as the EU's first real step towards direct democracy, a right contained in the new Lisbon Treaty allowing EU citizens to ask the European Commission to initiate a law is shaping up to be a political and legal minefield.

The wording of the 'citizens initiative' article requires one million signatures from EU citizens for the commission to consider a legislative proposal, but its implementation throws up practical problems.

The commission proposes giving itself wiggle room for repeated petitions on issues it does not want to follow up, noting that "disincentives or time limits" could prevent "successive presentations of the same request."

EU communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom has in the past predicted the tool will be "used immediately" by citizens, noting that it will be "the better if it causes some problems for the commission" as it will bring the institution more into contact with ordinary people and what they are looking for from the EU.

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