European Citizens’ Initiative “ONE OF US”

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AGENDA EUROPE supports ONE OF US, a European Citizens’ Initiative requesting the EU to adopt new legislation to prevent the use of EU funds for any activities that involve or pre-suppose the destruction of the Human Embryo.

A “European Citizens’ Initiative” (ECI) is an instrument of participatory democracy that was newly introduced in the EU through the Lisbon Treaty (2009) in order to strengthen the Union’s democratic credentials. As it was necessary to adopt a Regulation setting out the rules for ECIs, this new instrument de facto became available only as of 1 April 2012. ONE OF US was one of the very first ECIs to be registered, and it is only the second such initiative to collect the necessary 1 million signatures from citizens all over the EU. In fact, with 1,721,626 validated statements of support ONE OF US is the most successful among the 25 ECIs that have been registered so far. This is highly significant as it shows that the adequate protection of the right to life as from the moment of conception is the most important among the political issues that mobilize citizens across EU.

ONE OF US is unique among all ECIs registered so far in that it puts forward a complete and comprehensive legislative proposal that could immediately be made the object of a formal legislative procedure. This proposal, if adopted, would:

  • introduce a new Article into the EU’s Financial Regulation in order to provide for a horizontal prohibition to spend EU funds on any activity that would involve or pre-suppose the destruction of human embryos, and
  • provide for the inclusion of similar, but more sector-specific, provisions into  the EU’s 8th Research Framework Programme “Horizon 2020” and the EU’s “Financing Instrument for Development Cooperation”.

If an ECI collects more than 1 million statements of support, its legal representatives are invited to a closed-door meeting with representatives of the European Commission and to a public hearing in the European Parliament, which allows them to present their proposal to the EU’s political institutions. The Commission must then, within a period of three months after the formal submission of the ECI, issue a formal communication in which it explains which steps it intends to take as a follow-up to the successful initiative, or, in case it intends to take no such steps, the reason why it believes that a follow-up is not necessary.

In the case of ONE OF US, the meeting with the Commission took place on 9 April, and the hearing at the European Parliament on 10 May 2014.

This video shows the Parliamentary hearing in full length:

The Commission’s reply to the ECI was issued on 28 May 2014. In what must be considered a complete failure to engage with the concerns voiced by more than 1.7 million citizens, the Commission finds that the current legal framework is sufficient and therefore it is not necessary to launch a legislative procedure as requested by the citizens’ initiative.

As an initial reaction, the organizers’ committee of the ECI issued a press release in which they stated:

The ONE OF US Committee expresses its deep disappointment towards a deaf Commission which today makes a decision contrary to ethical and democratic requirements. While each initiative draft is controlled upstream by the Commission before being open to signature, the Barroso Commission claims to possess the right of veto downstream against initiatives having yet successfully obtained the required popular support.Such veto power is illegitimate and anti-democratic since, politically, it is the European Legislature that may give a verdict on the content of the Initiative, and not the Commission – otherwise, the ECI mechanism would be meaningless.

An Unjustified VETO which does not even take the purpose of the request into account: The Commission’s response is hypocritical and disdainful as it pretends to not understand the purpose of the demand and comprises of thirty pages of self satisfaction of its own policy. The Commission wishes to continue financing non ethical and outdated biotechnological practices, as well as abortion in developing countries including countries where this is prohibited by criminal law.

An Unjustifiable VETO which flouts the democratic procedure: The Commission, rather than noticing the Initiative’s success and transmitting it to the European Parliament and Council of Europe has abused its power of formal control to exercise a judgement on the political opportunity of “One of Us” and to block this procedure. The Commission is therefore trying to defend a privilege of initiative, being the only institution able to initiate legal procedures up upon the creation of the ECI mechanism. The Commission therefore made this mechanism a travesty while the deputies, on the contrary, wanted it to be a real instrument of participative democracy. The Commission thus testifies to the absence of a democratic culture.

For the “ONE OF US”Citizens’ Committee, the procedure is not over: on one hand, the Commission’s decision is likely to be appealed before the Court of Justice in Luxembourg – which acknowledges respect for human life from conception – and on the other hand, the new Parliament will audition the next Commission, allowing it to replace the respect of the Citizens’ Initiative in the heart of debates, and asks European Institutions to be more ethical and democratic.

On 25 July 2014 the organizers’ committee has filed a formal application to the EU’s General Court, requesting the invalidation of the European Commission’s response to the citizens’ initiative. This lawsuit must be considered an important test case for democracy in the EU.


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