On 7 April 2020, we addressed a written request to the European Commission to extend the deadline on the collection of signatures for the citizens' initiative for the protection of national regions. In this request, we asked for a six month extension of the deadline, so that this six-month period begins when the restrictive measures taken due to the pandemic in most Member States are lifted.
To date, we have not received a substantive response to this request. The Commission has only indicated that our request has been read, acknowledging that action must be taken to compensate for the obstruction of ongoing citizens' initiatives.
Subsequently, Vera Jourova, Vice-President of the European Commission, announced on 27 May that the Commission would initiate an amendment to the Regulation before the European Parliament and the Council to extend the time period for collecting signatures on citizens' initiatives.
Despite promising information published by the media, the letter from the Vice-President of the Commission and the draft Commission regulation regrettably lead to the following conclusions:
- The Commission has still not dealt substantively with our request for an extension of the above mentioned deadline. In said request, we referred to previous European Citizens' Initiatives in which the Commission, acting in the framework of their own authority, decided to extend the deadline. However, in its replies so far, the Commission has ignored these precedents, even though they prove that it has autonomous authority to extend the deadline.
In the light of the above, the draft amendment of the Regulation submitted to the Parliament and the Council can only be seen as an unnecessary and pointless delay and a deflection of responsibility on the part of the Commission.
- The Commission's proposal to amend the Regulation treats the various citizens' initiatives already underway in a discriminatory manner. The six-month extension proposed in the draft would immediately follow the date of the original deadline for the collection of signatures. This means that the organizers of the initiative on national regions, which had it’s deadline on May 7 this year, would have until November 7 to continue. All the while the proposal has not yet been discussed by Parliament and the Council! By the time the EU institutions adopt the amendment to the regulation, there may in any case be a much shorter time left of the theoretical six-month extension for the collection of signatures. Moreover, it cannot be ruled out that the amendment to the regulation will not be adopted until after 7 November. In that case, the Commission would inform us that, although we have received a fictitious six-month extension to collect signatures, that has already expired. The Commission's proposed amendment to the regulation will result in discriminatory legislation that is incompatible with the much-voiced EU values.
To treat the European Citizens' Initiatives in this manner is unacceptable. We are saying this not only on behalf of the organizers, but also on behalf of the 1,300,000 people who supported or wanted to support the initiative and are preparing to sign it at the time of the extension.
We therefore asked the European Commission in our reply dated June 3, to clarify the issue. We drew their attention to the contradictions in the proposal and asked that all citizens' initiatives be allowed to extend the deadline on the collection of signatures for an effective six month period. We have emphasized, and will continue to emphasize, that the Commission has the necessary authority to make the right decision without deflecting responsibility to other institutions.
President of the Szekler National Council
Marosvásárhely, June 5, 2020