The European Commission decided to register a European Citizens’ Initiative entitled ‘Save the bees! Protection of biodiversity and improvement of habitats for insects in Europe’ on 15 May. The organisers call on the Commission to ‘adopt legislation to maintain and improve habitats for insects as indicators of an undamaged environment’.
The Citizens’ Initiative focuses on the creation of mandatory targets ‘to make the promotion of biodiversity an overall objective of the common agricultural policy; to dramatically cut the use of pesticides, ban harmful pesticides without exception and reform eligibility criteria; to promote structural diversity in agricultural landscapes; to effectively reduce nutrients (e.g. Natura 2000); to effectively establish conservation areas; to intensify research and monitoring and improve education.’
Under the Treaties, the EU can take legal action in areas such as the internal market, agricultural policy as well as the protection of public health and the quality of the environment. The Commission therefore considers the initiative legally admissible and decided to register it. The Commission has not analysed the substance of the initiative at this stage.
The registration of this initiative will take place on 27 May 2019, starting a one-year process of collection of signatures of support by its organisers. Should the initiative receive one million statements of support within 1 year, from at least 7 different Member States, the Commission will have to 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.
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 (34 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 one 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.