President of JEF-Europe
The year 2010 was for JEF marked by the campaign to render the Regulation on the European Citizens’ Initiative as flexible and user-friendly as possible. While Article 11, paragraph 4 of the Treaty of Lisbon allows for “Not less than 1 million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of member states may take the initiative of inviting the Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the treaties.” the concrete modalities of the Article had to be agreed upon by the Parliament and the Council according to the ordinary legislative procedure.
JEF-Europe submitted an answer to the Green Paper of the Commission on the ECI, published its demands onwww.citizensinitiative.eu, intervened at Hearings in the European Parliament, lobbied officials working on the ECI in the three European institutions and galvanised the support of national sections who reached in total more than half of the MEPs in their own mother tongue. Our efforts have not been in vain and managed to bend the original proposals by the Commission and the Member States towards a more democratic final result. Among the positive achievements, we count the reduction of the national thresholds, the possibility to gather signatures on-line, an early admissibility check and a guaranteed follow-up by the Commission.
At an official ceremony held in Strasbourg on 16 February 2011, Foreign Minister János Martonyi, and President Jerzy Buzek, signed the regulation on the European Citizens’ Initiative, on behalf of the Council and the European Parliament respectively  Member states now have 1 year time to put in place any authentication and verification mechanisms until 1 April 2012 when the first ECI can be registered by a Citizens Committee consisting of 7 natural persons from different nationalities. The question should thus not be whether and when JEF can launch an ECI but on what topic and how?
Being able to team up with several Brussels-based partner organisation as well as its different national sections in almost every EU country where young people can easily mobilise masses via traditional street actions and on-line activism, there is no reason to question JEF’s ability to collect 1 million signatures over 1 year time, as long as we internally agree upon an appealing, federalist topic that is widely carried within our own organisation. It could range from submitting a proposal on taking additional measures for reducing youth unemployment to harmonising taxes for SMEs to strengthening Europe’s fight against climate change. The Political Platform provides an excellent reservoir of valuable ideas, however, we should always keep in mind that the proposal needs to fall within the powers of the Commission in order to pass the admissibility check. Idealist JEFers are welcome to try out registering a proposal on relaunching a Constitutional Convention to make a symbolic statement but it is definitely not worth it to mobilise all our resources for as the proposal would not trigger any action from the Commission. Yet, it is important that the organisation starts debating the topics in a first stage and then tries to elaborate concrete legal proposals in one of its Political Commission so as to approve of the text as well as the campaign on a statutory meeting of JEF Europe, preferably already at the XXI. European Congress in Autumn.
After having campaigned vigorously for an accessible, flexible and pro-democratic ECI Regulation, JEF should now seize this opportunity as a concrete tool to translate into practice its own federalist agenda by drawing on direct democratic methods it always dreamed about. If we don’t fully take advantage of this instrument, be reassured that eurosceptics may, to provoke debates in the European Parliament in line with their own priorities.