Ahead of the European elections in May, the European Commission registered this week four new European Citizens’ Initiatives in policy areas that may concern the voters in the elections. The European Citizens’ Initiative was established in 2012 and allows 1 million citizens from at least one quarter of EU Member States (at least 7 different Member States) to invite the European Commission to propose a legal act in areas where the Commission has the power to do so.
The four new European Citizens’ Initiatives are the following ones: ‘The fast, fair and effective solution to climate change’, ‘Ending the aviation fuel tax exemption in Europe’, ‘Cohesion policy for the equality of the regions and sustainability of the regional cultures’ and ‘PRO-NUTRISCORE’.
The last one calls on the European Commission to “impose simplified ‘Nutriscore’ labelling on food products, to guarantee that consumers are provided with quality nutritional information and to protect their health”.
At the same time, the Commission decided it cannot register an initiative entitled “Stopping trade with Israeli settlements operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.
The Commission writes that it does not have the legal power to make a proposal for such a decision but repeats that “the EU position remains that settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible”. In 2015, the Commission issued guidelines to the member states on labelling settlement products.
At this stage in the process, the Commission has not analysed the substance of the four registered initiatives, only their legal admissibility. Should any of the initiatives receive 1 million statements of support within 1 year from at least 7 different member states, the Commission will analyse it and react within 3 months.
News rules to make the European Citizens’ Initiative more user-friendly were adopted last December and will enter into force on 1 January 2020. Vice-President Frans Timmermans described the initiative as an instrument for democratic participation at EU level and the new rules as a major step forward to make it easier for European citizens to make themselves heard.
“In the end it wasn’t possible to lower the participation age from 18 to 16 years old across the EU, and I regret that. However, each country has the possibility to do so for their own citizens, so I would encourage them to allow younger generations to also have their say,” he said in December 2018.
The Brussels Times