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    European Affairs

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European Citizens' Initiative

The by strengthening participatory democracy and bringing the citizens to the centre of policy-making at EU level.

In this context, the Treaty reinforces and adds content to European citizenship through the introduction of the European Citizens' Initiative. This innovative mechanism aims to enable a group of citizens from different Member States to invite the European Commission to bring forward legislative proposals in areas where the EU has competence to legislate, for example, on the environment, agriculture, transport, etc. This possibility was enacted in 2011 by Regulation (EU) no. 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2011 on the citizens' initiative.

Each European Citizens Initiative must have the support of at least one million EU citizens, of the minimum age required to exercise the right to vote according to national legislation, including residents in at least 7 of the 28 Member States and obtain, in each of these states, a minimum number of subscribers, which varies according to each Member State.

However, prior to submitting the initiative, a citizens' committee must be formed, composed of at least seven European citizens including residents in seven European Union countries. This committee will be responsible for managing the entire process and collecting the signatures of European citizens.

Therefore, from 1 April 2012 it became possible for any citizen to prepare an initiative and form a citizens' committee together with at least six more European citizens (who may have the same nationality or a different nationality) but who must reside in different Member States.

Next, the initiative must be registered here, and after the European Commission confirms that the initiative is within the competence of the European Union, signatures of citizens (who, in Portugal, should be at least 18 years of age) may begin to be collected in at least seven EU countries. However, to collect signatures (also called statements of support) electronically, a certification of the collection system must be obtained beforehand.

The next step is to request that the competent national authority attest to the validity of the signatures collected. For signatures collected in Portugal (minimum 16,500) the competent authority is the Central Registry - Institute of Registries and Notaries. The remaining members of the citizens' committee should collect signatures at the same time and have them validated in their own countries. The signature collection period shall not exceed 12 months. When at least one million signatures have been collected, the initiative can be presented to the European Commission, which can then set in motion the corresponding legislative procedure.

For further information, the European Commission has created a page on the European Citizens' Initiative, available here.