Today the European Commission decided to register 4 new European Citizens’ Initiatives: ‘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’. At the same time, the Commission decided it cannot register a European Citizens’ Initiative entitled ‘Stopping trade with Israeli settlements operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’. The initiative is legally inadmissible as it manifestly falls outside the Commission’s powers to act according to the EU Treaties.
At this stage in the process, the Commission has not analysed the substance of the initiatives, but only their legal admissibility. Should any of the 4 registered 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. The Commission can decide either to follow the request or not, and in both instances would be required to explain its reasoning.
1. ‘The fast, fair and effective solution to climate change’
The objective of this European Citizens’ Initiative is to introduce ‘a steadily increasing price on fossil fuels‘, which would reduce pollution and would be ‘returned fairly every month to citizens as a dividend’. The organisers state that ‘Scientists and economists agree: Putting an increasing price on pollution and giving the returns to households – works‘.
2. ‘Ending the aviation fuel tax exemption in Europe’
The organisers of this European Citizens’ Initiative call on the Commission ‘to propose to Member States the introduction of a tax on aviation fuel (kerosene)‘ claiming that ‘the aviation sector enjoys tax advantages despite being one of the fastest growing sources of greenhouse gas emissions.‘
3. ‘Cohesion policy for the equality of the regions and sustainability of the regional cultures’
The organisers of this European Citizens’ Initiative state that ‘the EU should pay special attention to regions with national, ethnic, cultural, religious or linguistic characteristics that are different from those of the surrounding regions’. Therefore, the organisers call on the Commission to provide an ‘equal opportunity [for the regions] to access various EU funds (…) so that the EU’s development can be sustained and its cultural diversity maintained’.
This registration follows an initial Commission Decision to refuse to register the initiative on 25 July 2013, which was annulled by the Court of Justice on 7 March 2019. Following the judgment, the Commission has reassessed the proposed initiative.
The registration of this initiative will take place on 7 May 2019, starting a one-year process of collection of signatures of support by its organisers.
This European Citizens’ Initiative 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‘. The objectives of the initiative are to: ‘make the nutritional labelling easier to read and understand […]; take action on public health issues by encouraging professionals to improve the composition of their products; [and] harmonise nutritional information at European level by imposing a single official labelling system […]’.
5. ‘Stopping trade with Israeli settlements operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’
Today the European Commission concluded that the European Citizens’ Initiative aimed at ‘stopping trade with Israeli settlements operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory‘ is legally inadmissible because it manifestly falls outside its powers to act, as set out in the EU Treaties.
The organisers of the European Citizens’ Initiative call on the Commission to ‘formally recognize that trade with Israeli settlements is prohibited for both the EU as a whole and all Member States; and to enforce a regulation which ensures that goods and services originating fully or in part in such settlements will no longer enter the European market’.
A legal act on this subject could only be adopted on the basis of Article 215 (dealing with so called “Restrictive Measures”) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. But before such a legal act could be adopted by the Council, a decision is needed under the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy to allow for the interruption or reduction of economic and financial relations with the third country concerned. The Commission does not have the legal power to make a proposal for such a decision.
Since it does not meet the legal conditions for admissibility, the European Commission has decided it cannot register this initiative. Under the Regulation, a European Citizens’ Initiative cannot be registered if it manifestly falls outside the framework of the Commission’s powers to submit a proposal for a legal act.
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. In 2017, as part of President Juncker’s State of the Union address, the European Commission tabled reform proposals for the European Citizens’ Initiative to make it even more user-friendly. In December 2018, the European Parliament and the Council agreed on the reform and the revised rules will start applying as of 1 January 2020. In the meantime, the process has been simplified and a collaborative platform offers support to organisers. All this has contributed to 14% more registered Citizens’ Initiatives (33 registrations during this Commission vs. 29 in the previous) and 80% fewer refusals (only 4 Citizens’ Initiatives not registered during this Commission vs. 20 in the previous Commission).
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 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.
For More Information
Full text of the proposed European Citizens’ Initiatives:
- The fast, fair and effective solution to climate change (available as of 6 May 2019) http://www.citizensclimateinitiative.eu
- Ending the aviation fuel tax exemption in Europe (available as of 10 May 2019)
- PRO-NUTRISCORE (available as of 8 May 2019)
- Cohesion policy for the equality of the regions and sustainability of the regional cultures (available as of 7 May 2019) www.nationalregions.eu
- Stopping trade with Israeli settlements operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory