What is ECI?
With the ECI, it is for the first time possible for EU citizens to directly submit a legislative proposal at European level. While such instruments of direct participation exist in all Member States, there was so far no such possibility in the EU.
The procedure is remarkably easy. Signatures may be collected on the internet. Depending on national legislation, it is necessary in some countries that the signatory adds the number of a personal ID document, so that the authenticity of the signature can be verified afterwards.
The ECI is successful if it is supported by at least 1 million EU citizens, reaching a significant quorum it at least 7 Member States.
How enduring will the outcome be, given the considerable effort required?
In politics, no achievement is everlasting. The fight for the respect of the right to life will always have to continue, because attacks against the right to life will always continue.
However, the initiative, if successful, could be a starting point of a new Europe-wide mobilization of the pro-life movement. Every experience we collect here can be used for campaigns on other pro-life issues in further course. In that sense, it can be expected that the outcome may be very enduring.
What is the best possible outcome of this ECI?
- That the Financial Regulation will be changed as proposed
- That a new EU-wide pro-life movement is created
- That politicians become aware that the right to life is a concern shared by many voters, and that they need to take account of this.
Will the ECI “One of Us” create a precedent for a competency of the EU in life-issues?
No. An ECI cannot change the allocation of competences within the EU.
If there are doubts about the legality of EU funding for embryonic stem cell research and funding of abortion in developing countries, the EU currently nevertheless behaves as if it had those competences. The only way to undercut this self-given competence would be to take the Commission to Court, which can be done only by Member States or the EP (but not by individual citizens). It is unlikely that that will ever happen.
On the other hand, the ECI “One of Us does not imply any (explicit or implicit) recognition of EU competences on life issues. It is perfectly possible to support the ECI and at the same time affirm that the EU has no legal base for its current activities in this field.
The EC is not obliged to change the law as One of Us requests. How probable is it that they will change the law?
However, a successful citizen’s initiative creates considerable political pressure, especially if the other side is not able to mobilize similar popular support. With regard to the ECI “One of Us”, it should be noted that:
- Very few researchers in very few countries would actually benefit from the EU funding for controversial stem cell research;
- It is unlikely that the funding of abortion in third countries really has a great support in the wider public. Those policies appear to be promoted by organizations like “Planned Parenthood” and “Marie Stopes”, who, having good access to EU decision makers but little support in the public, are very afraid of this issue being made the object of a public debate.
- The ECI is a new instrument, which has been heralded as introducing a new era of participative democracy in the EU. “One of Us” is one of the very first ECI’s, and has good chances to be the first one that will reach (significantly!) more than 1 million signatures. If the EU decided not to change the law as proposed, the price to pay in terms of credibility would be rather high.
Even if the EC responds positively to it, i.e. takes initiative for a change of the financial regulation, is it not very unlikely that such a change would pass the Parliament and the Council?
In the Lisbon treaty, the EU has given itself this new instrument in order to diminish the democratic deficit it is suffering from. Not to respond to an ECI, which has proven to be widely supported in most Member States, would be a serious loss of credibility fort he EU institutions. Therefore, parliament will be very careful to reject a proposal that would further create negative feelings towards the EU among citizens.
Even if the required change will be made, can it not be changed again some years lager (and life-destroying funding reintroduced)?
Yes, theoretically it could be changed. However, this would again raise questions regarding the democratic credibility of the EU. The political cost of changing laws that go back to a popular initiative definitely is higher than the abrogation of “normal” laws.
Does the huge effort that is required for „One of Us“ to succeed make sense, given that the outcome is very uncertain?
Yes, it definitely makes a lot of sense, because it will inform politicians that “right to life” issues are important for many citizens. Currently, many politicians seem not to be aware of this, but the situation could definitely change if “One of Us” turned out to be the first successful initiative – and in particular if the support is significantly higher than 1 million signatures.