EuroPetition - eParticipation through Petitioning in Europe (EuroPetition)

Published on: 07/10/2010
Document

EuroPetition is a network of experts supporting citizens who want to petition the European Parliament from any of our 5 represented member states;  Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden, or the United Kingdom.

Petitioners can use the service to start petitions and then get help from the network in getting support and signatories in the other Member States.

The Europetitions service also makes sure that petitions have been checked by experts to ensure that the petition has a reasonable chance of being taken up by the European Parliament. We will advise petitioners as to the correct institution for their petition, including instances where a National Parliament is more appropriate.

Our experience to date highlights the complexities of matching the subject matter of certain petitions to the correct European institution. While we still aim to present Europetitions to the European Parliament wherever possible, the EuroPetition service is interested in working along with other European institutions willing to take cross border petitions.

The network was created out of an eParticipation Preparatory Action project which looked at trialing the coordination and submission of local epetitions and cross-border pan-European europetitions to the European Parliament during 2010 from 5 regions working with clusters of 19 Local Authorities in Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK, and potentially involving over 8 million citizens across the EU.

The project is now drawing to a close and the network will continue after the project ends in December 2010.

Policy Context

One of the most traditional ways for the general public to influence decision-making is by organising a petition. ePetition systems have already been introduced in some Member States both at National and increasingly local levels in order to make it easier to gather signatures from a wider audience. The Lisbon Treaty introduces the idea of the Citizens’ Initiative, whereby citizens will have the opportunity to call on the Commission to bring forward new policy proposals if they have the support of 1 million people from a significant number of EU Member States.  Petitioning is a simple yet effective tool that provides an excellent first step for citizens who want to engage with their Local Council and European Parliament.

 

“Europetitions” represent 2 fundamental rights of European citizens

  1. Petitions to the European Parliament -  Petitions Committee
    ·         Article 227 of the EC Treaty: Any citizen, acting individually or jointly with others,
          may at any time exercise his right of petition to the European Parliament
  2. European Citizens Initiatives (ECI)
    ·         Article 11 of the Treaty of European Union (Lisbon Treaty): One million citizens
           from a significant number of Member States can call on the European
          Commission to bring forward new policy proposals.
    ·         Implementation Regulation issued and will become live in mid 2011

Description of target users and groups

There will be four main actors in the system:

  • Local Authorities / Project Partners will coordinate the discussion boards and moderate local petitions
  • Citizens will sign petitions
  • Lead petitioners (usually citizens though in some cases elected officials in Local Authorities) will instigate and market petitions.
  • The Project Team will moderate and support petitions for the European Parliament and Commission - as well as training Local Authorities to take on this role in the future.

Citizens will either be recruited for the site or be introduced to it via one of the offline marketing activities or events planned. Citizens will then access the EuroPetition service, using any standard Web-Browser on Dial-up (or Broadband) Internet access on any standard PC.  Much of the content will be available to non-registered users however anyone wishing to post content will be asked to sign-up and join the site - as per other social networking sites such as Facebook.

Once on the site the user will be able to select their area of interest and either browse latest postings and petitions or add their own contribution.  Users will be encouraged to migrate between informal social networking and more formal engagement with decision makers through specific ePetitions and other online tools.

The site host will aim to encourage the debate and will regularly post short videos which will provide a quick, easy and engaging digest to the site and signpost users to key petitions and parts of content.  They will also recruit and train site moderators from the user community.

Users will also be encouraged to attend online and offline events in order to create a sense of community and focus related to petitions.

Users will be recruited on one of two bases:

  • They have a strong interest in a particular topic and will benefit from the petition tools available on the site
  • They are prominent members of their community and can benefit from using the tools in order to create an online community to complement their offline activities.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

EuroPetition is a trans-European Local Authority service providing local and distributed citizen engagement and interaction with the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee and the Commission’s Citizens Initiative online procedures using the proven open-source UK ePetitions service and experience, and building on the innovative and state-of-the-art Web 2.0 applications from the LEGESE, Citizenscape and eParticipate eParticipation projects. The project Pilot Trialed the coordination and submission of local petitions, as well as cross-border and pan-European europetitionsfrom 5 regions in ES, IT, NL, SE and the UK with 17 Local Authorities and involving over 7.9 million citizens across the EU, to strengthen and broaden citizens' participation in democratic decision-making and contribute to better legislation through applying the latest available innovative ICT tools and concepts in concrete cases, by:

1.    Using a specific open source tool – Public-i’s ePetitions system – to enable epetitioning to build interest and action around local and European decision making processes

2.    Using Web 2.0 tools to support the core petitioning process to build necessary discussion within regions and collaboration between regions involved in the project around the common goals of trans-national European Parliament Petitions and exploring how the threshold of 1 million signatures for the European Citizens Initiatives might be achieved.

3.    Advancing eParticipation: exploring the future course of eParticipation by applying novel tools and applications to the local, national and EU decision-making processes, including their scalability with a view to mainstreaming them within institutional environments, with an emphasis on governance, transparency and engagement of civil society in legislative and decision-making processes at all levels.

 

This was achieved by working with clusters of Local Authorities and citizens in each of the 5 pilot territories in ES,IT,NL,SE,UK, in order to build both local and trans-national petitions for submission to the European Parliament.  The project created a simple and scalable process which builds local support for petitions and then migrates these to other territories to achieve cross-border and ultimately pan-European support.

As EuroPetition is used in a number of cross-border decision-making cases it is relevant in promoting eParticipation not only in the context of the Lisbon Treaty but also in many legislative and decision-making processes.

Technology solution

Citizens use standard/Open PCs, Internet and Web Browsers. The EuroPetition service runs on the established eParticipate Public-i platform that centres on multimedia webcasting supported by the inclusion of contextual information and feedback facilities and the Viewfinder facility (www.public-i.eu), learning citizen-participation best-practice from the experience of the award-winning Bristol Council e-Petitions system (http://epetitions.bristol.gov.uk/) and discussion board (www.askbristol.com/viewfinder.php) and building directly on the very successful eTEN eParticipate project and experience (www.eparticipate.eu) and eParticipation projects Citizenscape (www.citizenscape.org) and LEGESE (www.legese.org). The EuroPetitions service is easy to use, technically open, written as open source software and standardised to interface with existing and future eGovernment and ePetitioning systems.

Technology choice: Mainly (or only) open standards

Main results, benefits and impacts

The objectives and targets of the project are:

1. Demonstration of a local and European-wide EuroPetition service.

(a) Adoption and operation of at least 1 regional multimedia discussion forum in each in each of 5 Pilot Trial Regions across the EU in ES,IT,NL,SE and UK,

(b) Adoption and operation of a localised EuroPetition service in each of 5 Pilot Trial Regions across the EU in ES,IT,NL,SE and UK, and resulting in at least 5 local petitions for consideration within each of the regions.

(c) Provision of 1 cross-border EuroPetition from each of the 5 Regions for submission to the European Parliament's Petitions Committee (5 in total).

(d) Provide a viable platform for pan-European Citizens' Initiative EuroPetitions where citizens will call on the Commission to bring forward new policy proposals with the support of 1 million people from the Consortium's 5 EU Member States (ES,IT,NL,SE,UK).

2. Increased participation of citizens in EU issues and/or cross-border issues among EU countries.

25% increase in citizen participation in democratic  processes through participation in ePetitions to their regional, cross-border and EU decision makers, in 5 very different legislative regions across the EU during the project.

3. Sustainable operation of the EuroPetition Service

Viability Plan for subsequent sustainable operation of the service across Europe.

 

The EuroPetition project has defined a set of Evaluation Criteria and a Pilot Trials Monitoring Plan, providing evaluation of the EuroPetition Pilot service in 5 varied Legislative Authority contexts, countries and languages in Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and the UK. This is assessing the legislative participation impact of the service and its relationship to wider aspects of e-governance, and will establish the varying contextual issues that need to be addressed in implementing the EuroPetition service in different legislative, constitutional, political and linguistic environments.

The evaluation is measuring how the EuroPetition service contributes to the democratic renewal and increased citizen legislative engagement in the 5 Regions, by citizen participation in local legislative and democratic activities and interactions. It looks at the full scope of the EuroPetition project and examines each of the following areas:

  • Evaluation of the project against all stated objectives and business plan assumptions
  • Evaluation of the system usage by the public and its democratic impacts
  • Cost benefit analysis from the point of view of the actors involved
  • Review of the EuroPetition methodology
  • Technical evaluation of platform performance
  • SWOT analysis for wider deployment

The results will be reported at the end of the 12 month Pilot Trials in December 2010.

Lessons learnt

The EuroPetition project found ...

•          ePetitions do provide the first easy step to proactive  eParticipation

–        Citizens & Petitioners have to see petitions & dialog in their own language

–        Local Authorities can provide excellent Trusted 3rd Party support

–        Leads to active local petitioning.

•          EuroPetition best practice e-Service for local, national & European petitions

–        Could provide a validated online platform & service for ECI procedures

•          Helped connect citizens with European Parliament & Commission

–        Raised awareness of EU Citizens’ ability/right to petition

–        Improved the quality of petitions to the European Parliament

–        Input to the ECI  online implementation procedures

•          Promoted the concept of epetitions & europetitions to widen & further understand citizen participation

–        addressing democratic deficit across the EU

Scope: International