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ECI Day 2024 faces the EU’s biggest participatory crisis yet!

Press Release: The ECI Campaign / Association for the ECI e.V.

Brussels, 1 March 2024 – The upcoming annual ECI Day, scheduled for 5 March 2024 at the European Economic and Social Committee, takes on heightened significance this year as the European Union faces its most significant participatory crisis yet.

What should have been an occasion to celebrate the progress of the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) has turned into an emergency meeting. The European Commission’s failure to fulfil its promise to draft legislation in response to the ‘End the Cage Age’ ECI’s demand to phase out animal caging has raised serious concerns about the credibility of the EU institutions’ commitment to democratic rules and values as enshrined in the Treaties.

Since its launch in April 2012, the ECI aims to empower EU citizens with participatory rights beyond periodic voting. However, out of numerous initiatives launched, only ten have succeeded in collecting the required signatures, with none seeing their main demands enacted into EU law. In 2021, the Commission made its first-ever and only promise of drafting legislation in response to the main demand of a successful citizens’ initiative, as it explicitly committed “to propose to phase out and finally prohibit the use of cages for all the animal species and categories referred to in the initiative.” The relevant draft legislation was announced for late 2023, but the Commission has failed to deliver, citing the need for further assessment, amidst intense industry lobbying, as revealed by several media sources.

Carsten Berg, Director of The ECI Campaign, comments:

“The Commission’s decision to support the ‘End the Cage Age’ ECI was groundbreaking and gave citizens hope for meaningful bottom-up change within the EU. However, its reversal represents a shocking moment of democratic regression. It is not only offensive to the organisers and supporters of this ECI, but also undermines participatory democracy and the efforts of all EU citizens working towards a democratic EU. The reversal shows that EU politics is influenced more by vested interests than by the interests of citizens, which is particularly harmful ahead of this year’s EU election. We urge Ursula von der Leyen and the Commission to immediately recommit to ‘ending the cage age’ and to set a clear deadline for the delivery of the promised draft legislation without further delay.”

The ECI Day provides a rare opportunity to discuss ECI developments with prominent personalities. This year’s event features high-profile speakers, including renowned intellectual David van Reybrouck, European Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, and Hendrik van de Velde, coordinator of the Belgian EU Presidency. Unfortunately, all requested EU Commissioners declined to speak on 5 March, further reinforcing concerns about lacking accountability and democratic back-sliding at EU-level.

More background information can be found here.

For media inquiries, please contact:
Dr. Carsten Berg

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