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The European Citizens’ Initiative: New Rules for Interest Groups’ Involvement in European Law Making Processes?

Open Panel

Abstract

The Lisbon Treaty introduces the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). Being neither an instrument of direct democracy nor a mere petition right it is often described as an element of participative democracy. But it does not give any institutional powers to those running a successful initiative. All the institutional powers rest with the European Commission. This constitutes a new relation between interest groups, the actors most likely to start an ECI, and the Commission. Up to now the Commission gains expertise from interests groups voicing their interests in consultations, while an ECI is a type of public criticism of the Commission’s work. These two actors start a new, more competitive type of political game on a blank sheet of paper framed just by the formal rules set up by the primary law and the ECI regulation. This situation will allow us to observe a process creating institutions with new rules and norms. Will these new institutions make the Commission consider successful ECI as serious impulses for new European laws or not? The paper analyses the existing formal framework of the ECI with regard to the question, whether we will have the above mentioned blank paper to write new rules on it, or not. Furthermore the paper will lay out a framework how to analyse future empirical evidence on the formation of new rules, norms, and meanings. Finally, some hypothesis on the interrelation of the new institutions with the legitimacy of the ECI will be developed.