Europe’s first citizens' initiative to start collecting signatures in August
Fraternite2020 first press conference at the European Parliament

Brussels (17/07/2012) – Fraternité 2020 is Europe’s very first citizens’ initiative. Its goal is to enhance EU exchange programmes – such as Erasmus or the European Voluntary Service – in order to build a united Europe based on solidarity among citizens. Following an offer by the Commission to set up the Online Collection System (OCS) it will be able to start collecting signatures around the end of August. Furthermore, the Commission announced an extension of the signature collection period for all registered ECIs.

Luca Copetti, member on the citizens’ committee for Belgium: “We received a letter from the Commission at the end of last week that: firstly, it will provide servers in Luxembourg that we can use free of charge; secondly, it will help us with the preparation of the risk analysis; and thirdly, we will get an extension of the signature collection period. The clock will only start ticking once the OCS is certified.”

Simona Pronckutė, from Lithuania, who chaired a press conference in the EP last week (see here): “This is a really radical turn of events for us! Last week we were still grappling with finding enough money to pay for a commercial solution. Now we can work with the Commission to get over this hurdle and will be able to start collecting signatures in four to six weeks. That is just wonderful! We are all overjoyed in the citizens’ committee about the Commission’s decision.”

Miguel Otero-Iglesias, member on the citizens’ committee from Spain, Assistant Professor at the ESSCA School of Management in Angers (France): “The Commission has done the only right thing. Now all ECIs will be able to start collecting signatures relatively soon. This was an historic step for more democracy in the EU.”

Note to the editors:

The European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) is one of the major innovations of the Treaty of Lisbon, aimed at increasing direct democracy in the EU. The initiative enables one million EU citizens, who are nationals of at least one quarter of the Member States, to call directly on the European Commission to propose a legal act in an area within the competences of the EU. In order to launch an ECI, citizens must form a citizens' committee composed of seven EU citizens from seven different member states. The first ever such ECI is Fraternité 2020, which was registered on May 09 (Europe day) this year. The decision was announced one day in advance by Vice-President of the Commission Maroš Šefčovič via his Twitter account. Since then eight more ECIs have been registered by the Commission.

In order for an ECI to start collecting signatures online, it needs to be able to set-up the so called ‘Online Collection System’ (OCS). The OCS basically consists of the necessary software plus the servers and a comprehensive risk assessment proving the security of these servers. The OCS needs to be certified by the competent national authority (usually the Ministry of Interior) in the member state in which the servers are located. Member states have up to four weeks for this certification process.

The software has been developed as an open source programme by the Commission that is made available to ECI organisers free of charge. After perennial problems of ECI organisers to set up the OCS themselves (not a single ECI can be signed online to this day!), the Commission announced to organisers in a letter last week that it will also help with the other components of the OCS. All ECI organisers can rely on the data centre premises in Luxembourg for the servers. Also, the Commission will help all organisers with the preparation of the necessary risk assessment to be submitted to the Luxembourg Certification Authority.

Irrespective of ECI organisers’ decision to take up the Commission offer to help with the implementation of the OCS, all currently registered ECIs will get an extension of the signature collection period until the first successful OCS is up-and-running on the Luxembourg premises of the Commission.