As part of a study trip to Brussels, students from the Master’s programme at the Strasbourg’s Political Science School are organising a conference focusing on the European Citizens Initiative (ECI), in partnership with the National Association of ex-pupils of Strasbourg’s Political Science School.

It did not seem apparent to talk about the Citizens Initiative, considering that current European issues are dominated by the economic and financial crisis, the reform of economic governance, the Banking Union as well as budget negotiations. However, this was the risk Strasbourg’s political science students were willing to take. A good decision to make: we couldn’t think of a better subject to kick-off 2013, the European Year of Citizens!

Held at the Economic and Social Committee, the conference will be opened by its future president, Mr Henri Malosse, who strongly supports the idea having been the first to sign the Citizens Initiative «Single Comunication Tariff» last December.

Additional experiences and views will be provided by a panel of three speakers: Charlotte Rive, head of institutional questions for the Secretariat General of the European Commission, Tony Venables, Director and founder of the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) and finally Luca Copetti, representing the Citizens’ Committee of «Fraternité2020» (the first ECI ever to have been registered by the Commission). All will be moderated by Ms Dorota Szeligowska, PhD in political theory from Central European University in Budapest.

The morning event will also provide the opportunity to look back on the origins of the ECI, the role that the demands of civil society played and the European Parliament on the introduction of this question within its political agenda. Another main issue will be to analyze the first steps of the ECI, one year after it was introduced; is it proving to be an efficient tool? Is the Commission making it easier for citizen based initiatives to emerge? Do citizens really have an impact on campaigns that are carried out or is it just another way for lobby groups to compete? These are just a few of a number of questions that will be put towards the speakers.

These will be linked to the democratic deficit of the European institutions and their legitimacy in the eyes of the citizens as well as the implications this will have on the decision-making process of the European Union. Just over a year away from the European elections and taking in to account that only a quarter of people under thirty ventured to the ballot boxes in 2009, we can only welcome the fact that students are arming themselves with such thorny questions: hats off to each and every one of them!

The conference will take place on January 11th, janvier from 9.30 a.m. until 13h at CESE (Rue van Maerlant 2, Brussels).

 

 

Lucas Buthion

Vice-President of the French Association Jeunes Européens

Young European Federalists [JEF]

Article translated into English by: Alexander Twist