Parliamentary e-petition systems

Parliamentary e-petition systems

Tools of democratic participation are often perceived as absent by the citizenry of our European Union; however, although there is a range of them ready to be used, many, including us at Talos, believe that they could be substantially improved and promoted more effectively. Under Article 227 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, every citizen or resident of our EU who has passed the required age of voting in his/her own country, and other legal persons, such as companies and associations registered in the EU, have the right to start a petition to the European Parliament (EP) at the following website. Petitions can only be submitted concerning matters that have been delegated by the 27 member states to the EP. If you scroll down, you can acquire a better understanding of how the European Parliamentary e-petitions work!

Worth Knowing

E-democracy and e-petitions

E-democracy stands for electronic democracy but is often also labeled as digital democracy. It stands for the idea of increasing citizens’ participation in democratic processes by relying on modern technological tools. This featured topic mainly focuses on petitions, opposed to referenda, in which citizens directly participate in decision-making mechanism. Former being parliamentary, governmental, and municipal e-petitions.

There are several countries that enable their citizens to submit petitions for parliamentary discussion or response. The very first parliamentary e-petition system was established in 1999, in Scotland. Since then, many other countries such as Germany or the United Kingdom have established similar systems. Nonetheless, some aspects are diverging among countries. E-petitions have a different set of thresholds which is only natural when one regards the different population sizes. However, what is striking is the use of more thresholds in one system: for instance, the UK e-petition system has a threshold of 10 000 and 100 000. The former requires the government to respond, and the latter a public debate in the House of Commons.

An example of a smaller political unit is the Bristol City Council’s e-petition system. Any person who lives, studies or works in Bristol is eligible to start a petition. Surprisingly, an age limit is absent, allowing children to raise their voice on matters important to them. The system has only one threshold of 3500 signatures. After reaching that number, the petitioner is invited to debate his motion at the Council meeting.

In the case of the European parliamentary e-petition system, there are no thresholds. Hence, regardless of the support of a petition, the EP is not required to the discuss the matter in the relevant Committees or at the plenary session in Strasbourg. Hence, the absence of thresholds leaves citizens’ without orientation and makes it appear as if the whole process is in the hands of the EP’s discretion. Some exercise criticism to this practice by arguing against detaching the EP from the citizenry.

Areas of submission:

As pointed out above, petitions have to fit into the framework of competences in which the EP enjoys the right of decision-making. You can present an individual complaint, observation or request related to the application of EU law, or an appeal to our European Parliament to adopt a position on a specific matter of law. The petition has to remain in the realms of the following areas:
· your rights as a European citizen as set out in the Treaties and the Charter;
· environmental matters;
· consumer protection;
· free movement of persons, goods and services;
· internal market;
· employment issues and social policy;
· recognition of professional qualifications;
· other problems related to the implementation of EU law.

How to write your petition?

Firstly, your petition must be written in one of the 24 official languages of our European Union. Luckily, this includes almost every official state language of the member states, most likely enabling you to write a draft in your vernacular. However, a substantial number of petitions are written in English to enable a greater reach. Secondly, your petition must concern the above-described areas of policy-making and legislation. Thirdly, make your petition concise by not exceeding the 32 000 character limit and refraining from including unnecessary information!

How to submit your petition?
To submit your petition you are required to create a user account on the following website. After registration, simply answer the questions and read the recommendations on how to author a petition created by the Committee on Petitions of our European Parliament (PETI). It is also advisable to look at similar and successful petitions to acquire a better grasp as an author.
What is the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament (PETI)?

The PETI is the Committee that deals with the petitions submitted. The Committee is primarily concerned with enabling the citizenry of our EU to raise their voice in matters of significance and to improve direct democratic participation.

What happens after submission?

Once you have submitted your petition through the e-portal, your proposal will be assessed by the Secretariat of the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament (PETI). The Secretariat may contact you to ask for additional details of your proposal, which is why it is vital to provide correct contact information. After its assessment, the Secretariat will send your petition with a summary and recommendations to the PETI.

If inadmissible

If the PETI deems your petition as inadmissible, it will drop your petition and refuse to take action. If so, you will be informed. If you have submitted a petition that concerns an area not delegated to the EP, but to another European institution, the PETI will advise you to contact them to set your proposal into motion.

There is no legal ground to appeal a decision taken by the PETI. Nonetheless, if one possess new information regarding the petition the person is kindly asked to submit it to the PETI, which based on the new information might re-open the case.

If admissible

If your petition fulfills all the criteria of the PETI they can take several further steps depending on the nature of your petition that is derived from Article 216 of the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure.

  1. “ask the European Commission to conduct a preliminary investigation on your petition and provide information regarding compliance with relevant EU legislation;
  2. refer your petition to other European Parliament committees for information or further action
  3. in some exceptional cases, prepare and submit a full report to be voted on by the European Parliament in plenary, or
  4. conduct a fact-finding visit to the country or region concerned and issue a report containing its observations and recommendations;
  5. take any other action considered appropriate to try to resolve an issue or deliver a suitable response to your petition.” (PETI FAQ)
  6. refer the petition to the European Ombudsman if appropriate
  7. „under Article 226 TFEU to set up a committee of inquiry to investigate cases of maladministration in the implementation of EU law, except when the matter is subject to legal proceedings”.

After deeming your petition as admissible, the PETI will upload a summary on its portal in all languages of our EU. The original petition will not appear on the website.

How and when will my petition be closed?

  1. When your petition is inadmissible
  2. If your petition has been thoroughly discussed and the PETI decides that no further action is to be taken, due to currently satisfying laws.
  3. If the petitioner withdraws his/her petition.
  4. If contact cannot be established between the PETI and the petitioner.

What’s wrong with the current e-petition system?

At the first glance, one might find the current e-petition system’s enabling of civic participation in decision-making satisfying. However, if e-petition systems are not linked to political mechanisms for instance by not requiring a formal debate in the parliament or are dismissed behind closed doors without the possibility of appeal, the whole process distances itself from the citizenry.

Mostly, as with all such tools, the importance lies in the details. According to Macintosh (2001) and others, e-petitions have to be:

  •   Accessible,
  •   Useable,
  •   Secure,
  •   Transparent, and
  •   Trustworthy.

In addition, the European Union has been facing continuous criticism due to the perception of many that label it as a detached body exercising technocratic politics without the impact of the citizenry or their will, or by being too complex causing difficulty in understanding it. To change these views it is vital to adopt or improve democratic tools of participation. The introduction of the e-petition system in the European Parliament was the right move, however, it seems that the mechanism lacks the crucial points to make it an effective system. While the system is secure and usable the three other criteria are only partially or not met. It is a system easy to access, but citizens are not aware of its existence. Regarding transparency, the petitioner receives information when the petition is inadmissible, but the public does not. Therefore, it is also not trustworthy.  

What do you think?

Drive change on Talos

Cause Let’s reform the e-petition system of our European Parliament!
Launcher Talos

“Hey there, if you agree with some of our points in this article then we would like to invite you to look at the e-petition proposal launched at Talos to reform the e-petition system. As you have read this article, you are likely to agree on the notion of reforming the system. Your actual suggestions may differ, but by signing the proposal we could force the EP to discuss the matter, and openly consider all options. Also, please free to contact us through the comment section or the various social media sites to make your voice heard. We are keen on adopting new points !”

Read more

European Parliament (The right to petition the European Parliament)

European Parliament (European Parliament Petitions FAQ)

The Guardian (E-petitions: the good and the bad)

Springer (E-democracy and the Scottish Parliament)

Parliamentary e-petition systems

Tools of democratic participation are often perceived as absent by the citizenry of our European Union; however, although there is a range of them ready to be used, many, including us at Talos, believe that they could be substantially improved and promoted more effectively. Under Article 227 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, every citizen or resident of our EU who has passed the required age of voting in his/her own country, and other legal persons, such as companies and associations registered in the EU, have the right to start a petition to the European Parliament (EP) at the following website. Petitions can only be submitted concerning matters that have been delegated by the 27 member states to the EP. If you scroll down, you can acquire a better understanding of how the European Parliamentary e-petitions work!

Worth Knowing

E-democracy and e-petitions

E-democracy stands for electronic democracy but is often also labeled as digital democracy. It stands for the idea of increasing citizens’ participation in democratic processes by relying on modern technological tools. This featured topic mainly focuses on petitions, opposed to referenda, in which citizens directly participate in decision-making mechanism. Former being parliamentary, governmental, and municipal e-petitions.

There are several countries that enable their citizens to submit petitions for parliamentary discussion or response. The very first parliamentary e-petition system was established in 1999, in Scotland. Since then, many other countries such as Germany or the United Kingdom have established similar systems. Nonetheless, some aspects are diverging among countries. E-petitions have a different set of thresholds which is only natural when one regards the different population sizes. However, what is striking is the use of more thresholds in one system: for instance, the UK e-petition system has a threshold of 10 000 and 100 000. The former requires the government to respond, and the latter a public debate in the House of Commons.

An example of a smaller political unit is the Bristol City Council’s e-petition system. Any person who lives, studies or works in Bristol is eligible to start a petition. Surprisingly, an age limit is absent, allowing children to raise their voice on matters important to them. The system has only one threshold of 3500 signatures. After reaching that number, the petitioner is invited to debate his motion at the Council meeting.

In the case of the European parliamentary e-petition system, there are no thresholds. Hence, regardless of the support of a petition, the EP is not required to the discuss the matter in the relevant Committees or at the plenary session in Strasbourg. Hence, the absence of thresholds leaves citizens’ without orientation and makes it appear as if the whole process is in the hands of the EP’s discretion. Some exercise criticism to this practice by arguing against detaching the EP from the citizenry.

Areas of submission:

As pointed out above, petitions have to fit into the framework of competences in which the EP enjoys the right of decision-making. You can present an individual complaint, observation or request related to the application of EU law, or an appeal to our European Parliament to adopt a position on a specific matter of law. The petition has to remain in the realms of the following areas:
· your rights as a European citizen as set out in the Treaties and the Charter;
· environmental matters;
· consumer protection;
· free movement of persons, goods and services;
· internal market;
· employment issues and social policy;
· recognition of professional qualifications;
· other problems related to the implementation of EU law.

How to write your petition?

Firstly, your petition must be written in one of the 24 official languages of our European Union. Luckily, this includes almost every official state language of the member states, most likely enabling you to write a draft in your vernacular. However, a substantial number of petitions are written in English to enable a greater reach. Secondly, your petition must concern the above-described areas of policy-making and legislation. Thirdly, make your petition concise by not exceeding the 32 000 character limit and refraining from including unnecessary information!

How to submit your petition?
To submit your petition you are required to create a user account on the following website. After registration, simply answer the questions and read the recommendations on how to author a petition created by the Committee on Petitions of our European Parliament (PETI). It is also advisable to look at similar and successful petitions to acquire a better grasp as an author.
What is the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament (PETI)?

The PETI is the Committee that deals with the petitions submitted. The Committee is primarily concerned with enabling the citizenry of our EU to raise their voice in matters of significance and to improve direct democratic participation.

What happens after submission?

Once you have submitted your petition through the e-portal, your proposal will be assessed by the Secretariat of the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament (PETI). The Secretariat may contact you to ask for additional details of your proposal, which is why it is vital to provide correct contact information. After its assessment, the Secretariat will send your petition with a summary and recommendations to the PETI.

If inadmissible

If the PETI deems your petition as inadmissible, it will drop your petition and refuse to take action. If so, you will be informed. If you have submitted a petition that concerns an area not delegated to the EP, but to another European institution, the PETI will advise you to contact them to set your proposal into motion.

There is no legal ground to appeal a decision taken by the PETI. Nonetheless, if one possess new information regarding the petition the person is kindly asked to submit it to the PETI, which based on the new information might re-open the case.

If admissible

If your petition fulfills all the criteria of the PETI they can take several further steps depending on the nature of your petition that is derived from Article 216 of the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure.

  1. “ask the European Commission to conduct a preliminary investigation on your petition and provide information regarding compliance with relevant EU legislation;
  2. refer your petition to other European Parliament committees for information or further action
  3. in some exceptional cases, prepare and submit a full report to be voted on by the European Parliament in plenary, or
  4. conduct a fact-finding visit to the country or region concerned and issue a report containing its observations and recommendations;
  5. take any other action considered appropriate to try to resolve an issue or deliver a suitable response to your petition.” (PETI FAQ)
  6. refer the petition to the European Ombudsman if appropriate
  7. „under Article 226 TFEU to set up a committee of inquiry to investigate cases of maladministration in the implementation of EU law, except when the matter is subject to legal proceedings”.

After deeming your petition as admissible, the PETI will upload a summary on its portal in all languages of our EU. The original petition will not appear on the website.

How and when will my petition be closed?

  1. When your petition is inadmissible
  2. If your petition has been thoroughly discussed and the PETI decides that no further action is to be taken, due to currently satisfying laws.
  3. If the petitioner withdraws his/her petition.
  4. If contact cannot be established between the PETI and the petitioner.

What’s wrong with the current e-petition system?

At the first glance, one might find the current e-petition system’s enabling of civic participation in decision-making satisfying. However, if e-petition systems are not linked to political mechanisms for instance by not requiring a formal debate in the parliament or are dismissed behind closed doors without the possibility of appeal, the whole process distances itself from the citizenry.

Mostly, as with all such tools, the importance lies in the details. According to Macintosh (2001) and others, e-petitions have to be:

  •   Accessible,
  •   Useable,
  •   Secure,
  •   Transparent, and
  •   Trustworthy.

In addition, the European Union has been facing continuous criticism due to the perception of many that label it as a detached body exercising technocratic politics without the impact of the citizenry or their will, or by being too complex causing difficulty in understanding it. To change these views it is vital to adopt or improve democratic tools of participation. The introduction of the e-petition system in the European Parliament was the right move, however, it seems that the mechanism lacks the crucial points to make it an effective system. While the system is secure and usable the three other criteria are only partially or not met. It is a system easy to access, but citizens are not aware of its existence. Regarding transparency, the petitioner receives information when the petition is inadmissible, but the public does not. Therefore, it is also not trustworthy.  

What do you think?

Drive change on Talos

Cause Let’s reform the e-petition system of our European Parliament!
Launcher Talos

“Hey there, if you agree with some of our points in this article then we would like to invite you to look at the e-petition proposal launched at Talos to reform the e-petition system. As you have read this article, you are likely to agree on the notion of reforming the system. Your actual suggestions may differ, but by signing the proposal we could force the EP to discuss the matter, and openly consider all options. Also, please free to contact us through the comment section or the various social media sites to make your voice heard. We are keen on adopting new points !”

Read more

European Parliament (The right to petition the European Parliament)

European Parliament (European Parliament Petitions FAQ)

The Guardian (E-petitions: the good and the bad)

Springer (E-democracy and the Scottish Parliament)