MEPs struggle over how to deal with public hearings
MEPs are at odds over how the European Parliament should handle requests for public hearings brought under the European Citizen’s Initiative (ECI), which comes into force on 1 April.
At present, the petitions committee filters calls for changes or innovations in EU laws lodged with the Parliament by European voters.
However, a member of the committee – Gerald Häfner, a German Green MEP – told a European Commission-sponsored conference on the ECI last Thursday (26 January) that other committees believe that responsibility should be assigned case by case. They argue that the decision should rest with the Parliament’s Conference of Presidents, which is made up of the Parliament’s president and the political group leaders.
The Lisbon treaty, which came into force in December 2009, stipulated that the EU institutions should increase the scope for direct democracy at EU level. The European Commission and the European Parliament subsequently agreed that a public hearing with officials, experts and the public should be held if a proposal secured the signatures of one million Europeans from at least seven member states, with the Parliament being responsible for organising the hearing.
Häfner argued that the petitions committee and other committees that cover the issues raised by an initiative could co-sponsor the hearings.
Parliament officials said that a final decision will be taken by the chairmen of Parliamentary committees in the coming weeks.
Another issue yet to be resolved is whether organisers of petitions that narrowly fail to obtain one million signatures will also be allowed to request a hearing.
MEPs and member states agreed the general rules for the ECI in 2010.
On Thursday, the Commission launched a website intended to ease the collection of signatures.