Strasbourg 15 December 2010.
The European Parliament today adopted a regulation that will enable a million EU citizens to request a new EU law from the European Commission: the European Citizens' Initiative.
European Conservatives and Reformists group spokesman on the committee, Ashley Fox MEP said the move represented a litmus test for the Commission - whether it could take on board and adopt legislation that it doesn't necessarily like.
The ECR group proposed that an initiative will only require signatories from a fifth of EU Member States, rather than a third as proposed by the commission. This amendment was accepted in committee and makes it easier to propose an initiative.
In its original proposal, the Commission had suggested assessing admissibility once the initiative had collected 300,000 signatures. The Parliament rejected this. The ECR wants to make it easier for people to sign up to a petition, without having to provide passport numbers or ID card details.
Mr Fox said:
"The EU's institutions can be incredibly remote and this initiative should give people an opportunity to make their voices heard. Whether the European Commission can stomach it is another matter.
"We have designed this proposal in such a way that it cannot be hijacked by well-funded lobby groups, many of whom receive significant amounts of money from the European Commission itself. The rules that we have put in place will help to ensure that petitions reflects grass-roots opinion and strength of feeling. The abstract nature of decision-making across the EU means that lobby groups already enjoy significant access to the decision-making process; now it is time for people to have their say.
"Too often the European Commission only listens to the people who tell it what it wants to hear. Now they must listen to everybody. I hope that they will treat every initiative with respect, even those it doesn´t like. I want to see initiatives that call for the EU to do less. That repatriate powers to the nation states. I wait with interest to see how the Commission reacts to such proposals. The proof of this pudding will be in the eating."