Sign here to change Europe

Marc Leijendekker, nrc handelsblad, 16.04.2010

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What should Europe do? Give more development aid to Africa? Keep Turkey out indefinitely? Make the food industry put big labels on its products if they contain genetically modified ingredients?

Later this year, EU citizens will be able to give direct input in the discussions of the European Commission. The commission is currently finalising the European Citizens’ Initiative, an instrument that gives people in the EU the right to put their concerns on the commission's agenda, provided they collected one million signatures from at least nine countries. [...]

"It will indeed be difficult to explain to citizens if the commission fails to take action after a successful initiative," said Janis Emmanouilidis, a researcher at the Brussels' think-tank European Policy Centre. He sees two main problems with the citizens' initiative. First, it can raise false expectations about issues that Brussels cannot or will not touch. And second, active minorities could paint a distorted picture of what Europeans want.

"One million signatures only represent 0.2 percent of the EU population," Emmanouilidis said. "The threshold for comparable petitions and referendums in individual countries is higher. Certain lobby groups and NGOs that are active in several countries can easily launch an initiative. This makes transparency essential. Europeans have to know exactly who is behind the initiatives." [...]

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