Lisbon Treaty : A direct instrument of democracy on the european level.

The right to launch a citizens’ initiatives to change EU laws will be considered by MEPs today. On the table are a number of options about how the system could work in practice with the number of people and number of countries represented being key issues.

Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s debate, the head of Parliament’s Constitutional Affairs Committee, Italian MEP Carlo Casini told us, “the citizen’s initiative has a great symbolic value. It shows the existence of a European people, that is more than the sum of nationals’ citizens”.

For it to be operational, the EU has to define the rules, which are not detailed by the Lisbon Treaty. As Mr Casini explains “the new instrument has to guarantee the seriousness of individual signatures and at the same time ease of access”.

MEPs have already set out what they would like to see regarding the number of states that are represented. In a resolution adopted last May they called for a quarter of EU countries to be represented - at present that would mean 7 countries. When the Commission unveil their proposals today it will remain to be seen how many they ask for.

Another issue of contention is online signatures and how signatures will be verified when they are collected and submitted.

It is envisaged that the citizens’ initiative will be up and running next year after Parliament and EU governments have reached a consensus on how it will work.

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