Member states' EU ambassadors today endorsed, without amendments, the Commission's proposal to extend several deadlines linked to the European Citizens' Initiative due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The planned temporary measures, which would apply until the end of 2022, give organisers of initiatives more time to collect statements of support in order to reach the required threshold of one million signatures from across the EU.
For the initiatives that were ongoing on 11 March 2020, when the World Health Organization announced a worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the one-year collection period would be extended by up to six months. For the initiatives that started collecting signatures after 11 March and before 11 September, the collection period would run until 11 September 2021.
The Commission would be able to further extend the collection period for initiatives, if necessary due to public health measures related to COVID-19, to a maximum of two years in total.
In addition, the proposed measures allow for an extension of the time limits for the verification of signatures in member states and for the examination of successful initiatives by the EU institutions.
The Council agreed its position on the measures as a matter of urgency in order to address the legal uncertainty affecting citizens, organisers, national administrations and the EU institutions, in particular where the time periods for the collection of statements of support, verification and examination of initiatives have already ended or are about to end.
The European Parliament will now have to vote on its position on these measures, which need to be agreed between the Parliament and the Council in order to be adopted.
Under the EU treaties, the European Commission has the sole right of legislative initiative, with exceptions in only a few areas.
The European Citizens' Initiative is an instrument of participatory democracy which enables one million EU citizens from at least one quarter of the member states to invite the Commission to propose a legal act in areas where it has the power to do so.
In the event of a successful European Citizens' Initiative, the Commission is required to provide its answer in a communication setting out its legal and political conclusions on the initiative, the action it intends to take, if any, and its reasons for taking or not taking action.