We are deeply concerned that the pandemic spread of the corona virus all over Europe may negatively impact the ECI instrument and democratic life in the EU. Many of the ECI organizers we support through our independent ECI Help Desk report that it is currently impossible to make proper use of the ECI and collect statements of support due to the corona pandemic and the numerous counter-measures instigated by the Member States, which have virtually led to a standstill of public life. According to our observations the outbreak of the corona virus limits the organization of ECI in numerous ways:
Due to strict curfews and other quarantine measures in many EU Member States, ECI paper signature collections, on which many ECIs depend, are no longer possible. Moreover, campaigning which is an indispensable precondition for a successful ECI is severely affected as it has become impossible to hold public events to promote and deliberate the respective ECI. Regardless of this, campaigning in any form is currently not possible due to the public omnipresence of the corona topic. At the same time, cross-border cooperation within the ECIs is severely impaired due to the various entry bans and travel restrictions. Last, but not least, due to the multiple burdens such as closing schools and kindergartens, caring for elderly and sick relatives, restricting freedom of movement, etc., ECI campaigners in many Member States are not able anymore to pursue their work. It is undeniable that the corona virus constitutes a case of force majeure which was not foreseeable by any of the ongoing ECIs. It was therefore not possible to take adequate measures in order to prevent the resulting negative impacts.
In this regard, we also want to point out that ECI organizers already have to face other burdensome challenges caused by Brexit. The breaking away of very strong ECI alliance partners and millions of potential citizens in the UK makes it significantly more difficult to successfully run an ECI. Since the quorum of 1 million signatures for the support of an ECI is laid down in primary law and can only be modified by treaty change, we believe that it is necessary to ease the heavy burdens of ECI organizers in other ways.
Against this background, we therefore appeal to the European Commission to make an exception and extend the deadline for the collection of statements of support. This was already the case in 2012 for the then ongoing ECIs due to the dysfunctional Online Collection System (OCS) provided by the European Commission. In view of the current, unprecedented situation in the history of the European Union and the related uncertainties and risks, we believe that an extension of at least six months would be appropriate.
An extension of the deadlines would ensure everyone’s full concentration on slowing-down the spread of the corona virus and at the same time protect ECI future development.[This message has been addressed to the European Commission and the European Parliament. For further questions please contact: berg((at))citizens-initiative.eu ]