European citizens’ initiative
Commission registers first ECI, five more to come
By Gaspard Sebag | Tuesday 08 May 2012
The European Commission will register the first admissible European citizens’ initiative (ECI) on Europe Day, on 9 May: ‘Fraternité 2020 – Mobility. Progress. Europe’. European citizenship and identity are at the core of this initiative, which seeks to “enhance EU exchange programmes – such as Erasmus or the European Voluntary Service (EVS)”. Luca Copetti, one of the Belgian organisers of this ECI, hopes that it can help build a ‘bottom up’ Europe. The Fraternité 2020 initiative will now have one year to gather one million signatures from seven member states in order to call upon the EU executive to propose legislation. Out of a total of ten received so far, five more ECIs will be registered on 10 and 11 May, according to a Commission source.
The citizens’ initiative, a notion that was introduced over two years ago by the Lisbon Treaty, finally becomes a reality. Administration Commissioner Maros Sefcovic hopes this can be a “great boost” for participatory democracy in Europe.
The organisers of the ‘Fraternité 2020’ initiative believe that enabling more EU citizens to spend time in another member state “will develop intercultural skills and cross-cultural understanding, which will have positive economic, social and cultural effects on the entire continent”. In particular, this ECI’s website states that increasing mobility can spur economic growth and help bring down unemployment rates across Europe. “We should create a genuine European Community of people and not only of states,” adds Philippe Perchoc, a member of this ECI’s citizens’ committee.
‘Fraternité 2020’ proposes three measures to make exchange programmes “more attractive”: increasing the amount of funds available; making sure they develop more skills among the participants; and tracking progress in the field of mobility through better monitoring. To that end, the EU executive has already made some proposals. For the 2014-2020 period, the Commission suggests merging all EU and international programmes that are currently running in the fields of education, training, youth and sport under the ‘Erasmus for All’ banner. At current prices, the total proposed budget is around €19 billion, ie a 71% increase compared to the current multiannual financial framework (MFF).
‘Fraternité 2020’ is backed by NGOs, MEPs, such as Isabelle Durant (Greens-EFA, Belgium) and Marc Tarabella (S&D, Belgium), and academics.
“Developing intercultural skills and cross-cultural understanding will have positive economic, social and cultural effects on the entire continent”