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European Citizens´ Initiative Forum

The European Citizens’ Initiative: Luxembourg in focus

Updated on: 20/07/2021

On 18 June 2021, the 5th national event about the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) took place online. The event focussed on the ECI and other participatory instruments within Luxembourg and shared experiences from ECI organisers, showcasing how this unique instrument in the democratic functioning of the EU can impact the lives of citizens.

The ECI in Luxembourg

Horst Heinzius, Communication Officer for the Commissions representation in Luxembourg, welcomed all participants and spoke about the ECI’s value to citizens and its impact since its inception. The ECI, in Luxembourg, has a high level of signatures per capita, which is encouraging and a reason for citizens to be proud of. Horst then referred to the words of Věra Jourová, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, - "Europe is changing, the world is changing, European policy is evolving and European citizens expectations when it comes to democratic participation is also evolving. The European institutions adopted new tools in light of these evolutions to encourage citizens to participate in democratic processes".

From the participants’ responses to the quiz on the ECI, it was clear that they had more than a passing knowledge on the topic. It showed that the ECI was something the attendees were not just aware of but also felt passionate about.

Barbara Walentynowicz, from the ECI team at the European Commission, highlighted the good results of the online quiz and explained the answers to some tricky questions during her brief outline of the ECI and its 6 steps. She also shared some encouraging figures regarding current and successful ECIs. For instance, did you know that 104 requests have been submitted, of which 79 have been registered with 6 gaining over 1 million signatures? There are 12 ongoing initiatives, so if you want to help support them, head on over to the ECI page for more details.


What is the value of the ECI for participatory democracy at national and EU level?

The panel opened with Barbara, who highlighted the ECI as a powerful tool of participatory democracy. She recalled, however, that it is first and foremost an agenda-setting tool. There are other avenues available to citizens if an ECI does not fit their aims, such as petitions, campaigns, the Conference on the future of Europe or complaints to the European Ombudsman to name a few.

Christophe Lefèvre, Member of the European Economic and Social Committee, noted that it is encouraging to see the support for the ECI tool from the European Commission and Parliament. More often than not, it is difficult for citizens to directly address the halls of power within Europe, even though it is one of the most open democracies in the world. The ECI allows for a more direct line to the policymakers and also makes communication between the Commission and the Parliament more efficient in some ways. Starting an ECI means that the organisers will receive support, and this encourages people to participate as it gives them the confidence, and belief, that their voices will be heard. This is truly a powerful thing.

Philippe Ternes, an expert on participatory democracy, noted that as European citizens, we are still in the early days of understanding the power of these tools. When it comes to the ECI, it’s all about ease of access to information and maximising public participation. Philippe presented an interesting idea about using an app to easily sign ECIs, share information about them and create a sense of community. It could unite all ECI stakeholders under a common purpose – bringing together more like-minded people to help affect change through the ECI. Philippe also mentioned that ECI organisers need easier access to financial support, and perhaps if a defined threshold of signatures is reached (50.000), financial support could be provided. At the same time, this would help organisers to avoid financial support from special interest groups, which could hinder a campaign in the long term as their interests may not align with the ECI.


During the Q&A, panellists were asked a question on collecting ID numbers and differing Member states’ requirements for personal data. Barbara explained the two types of data collected sets are collected depending on the supporter's nationality (the name and either ID number or date of birth and address), necessary for the verification of signatures, and outlined how data protection is paramount.

Why start an ECI? What can you achieve? Tips and tricks to make the most of it

Rosalie van den Brink, from Voters Without Borders gave an overview of what their initiative aims to achieve: to eliminate barriers to free and open voting, regardless of the Member State in which a citizen lives. As it stands, a large proportion of EU citizens (almost 14 million!) are not able to partake in national democratic processes when they reside in another member state. Moreover, several EU countries actively disenfranchise their citizens if they reside abroad for a certain length of time. Rosalie´s tip for aspiring organisers – research and make sure you know the topic well, respond to situations straight away, extend your network and keep an open mind, as you do not know/cannot predict where the ECI road will lead you!


Dino Serafini, representing the ECI Stop! - A price on Carbon to Fight Climate Change, echoed the sentiments of Rosalie and said that each event is a great way not only to raise awareness but also grow current ECI networks. The Stop!GlobalWarming initiative aims to introduce a minimum price on CO2 emissions and abolish the existing system of free allowances to EU polluters. This would allow the revenue generated to support a low carbon future and create more green employment. Dino´s tips for a successful ECI: reach out to like-minded people and strengthen your network, be informed and prepared to start the journey.

Assya Kavrakova, Executive director of the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), explained the role of the ECI Forum as a cooperative, multi-lingual hub that supports organisers every step of the way. The Forum also lets organisers get together and share their collective experiences. If you are an aspiring organiser, the “Learn” section of the Forum can be a real goldmine of information. The “seek advice” section is also very valuable as it puts organisers in contact with experts who will respond to questions on legal or procedural aspects of the ECI; this service is free of charge. So, although the idea of starting an ECI may seem daunting, with resources such as the ECI Forum, your journey just became that bit easier.

Luxembourgish citizens in action!

Patrick Vanhoudt, the Principal economic adviser at the European Investment Bank, noted that citizens are faced with particular and sometimes pragmatic issues. In Patrick's case, it was Luxembourg’s non-compliance with access to medical care at equal cost. Using available tools within Luxembourg, Patrick was able to launch a national citizens’ initiative, which, after reaching 4.500 signatures, led to a debate within parliament. The resulting debate has led to reviews of the policy and although the work goes on, it is encouraging to see that such national avenues exist.

The future of the ECI?

What are your thoughts on this, and the ECI as a whole? Is there something that sparks your interest? If so, why not join in on the discussions and have your voice heard!


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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed on the ECI Forum reflect solely the point of view of their authors and can in no way be taken to reflect the position of the European Commission or of the European Union.
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