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Article of the G. Toussas, Member of the CC and MEP under the title: EU Citizens’ Initiative

The “participatory democracy” of capital

The so-called “citizens’ initiative” which was established through the reactionary Lisbon Treaty – the renamed “European Constitution” – has recently been at the center of the vulgar propaganda of the EU and the bourgeois governments of the member states, after the December 2010 agreement of the European Parliament and the Council, concerning the relevant Regulation. The Prime Minister, Giorgos Papandreou, undertook the mockery against the working people in our country, when he demagogically declared his intention to take advantage of the EU “citizens’ initiative”, in order to collect signatures for the creation of a “eurobond”. ND and the other parties of capital jointly support the “initiative”, in their efforts to incorporate in a mass way the working class and the people’s strata into the dominant bourgeois policy. Alongside them, the opportunists of the European Left and the SYN/SYRIZA decided to launch a signature collection, at the 3rd Congress of the EL, according to the “citizens’ initiative” process, calling for the creation of a European Fund for social development and solidarity, without the IMF support mechanisms. It constitutes a minimum “safety net” for the humiliated popular strata, in order for the bourgeoisie to be able to prevent any workers’ or people’s uprisings and to protect the exploitative system. Despite their supposed opposition to the Lisbon Treaty, they spread illusions to the workers once more; they support the efforts for the white-washing of the EU and capitalism in general.

The “citizens’ initiative” and the real objectives of the EU

The “citizens’ initiative” provides the EU citizens the “right to initiate legislation” by submitting one million signatures to the Commission, inviting it “to submit a proposal for a legal act of the Union for the purpose of implementing the Treaties”.

According to the relevant intervention of the KKE delegation in the European Parliament, “the ridiculous exultations on the reinforcement of the democratic institutions of the EU, which accompanied the voting of the Regulation on the “citizens’ initiative”, are nothing else but another effort to provocatively manipulate and fool the peoples. This fake “citizens’ initiative” is not only useless, but can prove dangerous for the peoples”.

This is what the Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council of the EU provides for:

  • The Commission must approve beforehand the subject on which the signatures are collected.
  • The initiative depends on the Commission’s permission; the Commission has the right not to bring forward the proposed initiative, if it estimates that it is manifestly contrary to the values of the European Union as set out in the Lisbon Treaty, or falls outside the sphere of the Commission's powers, or for other technical and subjective reasons. It is obvious that there cannot be any initiatives on the EU Treaties and their amendment, particularly on the four freedoms of movement of the capital established by the Maastricht Treaty.
  • Initiatives that don’t respect the strategic EU policies, such as the anti-popular strategy “Europe 2020”, are not allowed. The same applies to initiatives that don’t respect the EU values, namely the capitalist exploitative system itself, the “social market economy, where competition is free and undistorted”, as defined in the EU Treaties.
  • In any case, the initiatives that are not agreeable to the EU can be rejected by the Commission before they are even launched.
  • If an initiative is approved, there is a 12-month period for the organizers to collect the signatures. The signatures must be collected in the ¼ of the member states (7 countries) and the minimum number of citizens per member state must derive from the number of members of the European Parliament of each state multiplied by 750 (i.e. 16500 signatures for Greece). There are strictly determined conditions for the filing of personal data through this procedure. The signatory is required to declare the following: his full name and family name, his permanent residence (address, street, postcode, city, and country), his date and place of birth, his nationality, his Personal identification number/Type of identification number/identity document, date and signature, while the person responsible for the collection of the signatures must cross-check the above data. The authorities of the member states must then check the lists of signatures, according to their legislation, and authenticate them within 3 months from their submission. At the same time, the resources and the eventual financing of the signature collection are also examined.

The most important is that the Commission is not obliged to propose any legislation. After all this bureaucratic procedure and after accepting the initiative, the Commission has no obligation to propose any legislative regulation, it only has to set out its conclusions on the citizens’ initiative within 3 months and to communicate whether it intends to take any action or not.

This is the “democratic nature” of the EU that the “citizens’ initiative” is supposed to ensure. Firstly, the Commission must give its permission and the initiative must comply with the EU values and respect the Treaties. Then there is a complex bureaucratic procedure and the filing of the undersigned by the services of the member states. And after the collection of the signatures, the Commission may chuck them in the dustbin.

A useless and dangerous procedure for the peoples, a useful one for the capitalists

On the other hand, we can’t ignore the fact that the collection of one million signatures from various countries, in various languages, with various mechanisms of control of the signatures and the resources, can be undertaken and carried out only by experienced organizations, with considerable technical and operational infrastructure, which have the know-how, are organized at international level, have important resources, employ people for a long period of time. It is obvious that such initiatives can be undertaken and carried forward only by the big NGOs, connected (directly or indirectly, through the establishment of the necessary mechanisms) to monopoly groups or the capitalist business and supported by the government or the state; even the bourgeois governments themselves could play this role, according to the announcements of G. Papandreou.

For instance, the recent initiative of the Foreign ministers of 6 EU countries – Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Poland – which was addressed to the Commission and demanded the banning of the communist symbols, the unhistorical equation of nazism with communism and the penalization of any reference to and defense of the socialist regimes, could easily become a “citizens’ initiative”; the EU Council has already asked from the Commission to examine the issue and propose relevant actions, the Commission has conducted an initial exchange of views during a public hearing, relevant committees have been established in various countries, several organizations have been mobilized, as well as lots of funding.

In its intervention for the explanation of the negative vote of the Party in the Plenary Session, on 16/12/2010, the KKE delegation in the European Parliament notes, among others: “This kind of “citizens’ initiative”, led and manipulated by the mechanisms of capital and the bourgeois political system, can be useful for the EU institutions that can present the most anti-popular and reactionary choices of the EU and the monopolies as a supposed “people’s demand”. Moreover, such “initiatives” will be used in a way that the signatures, the memoranda and the pleading are opposed to the organized workers’ and people’s movement, the mass militant people’s demonstrations and fights, the variety of the forms of struggle.

The alignment of the European Left, SYN/SYRIZA and the opportunists in general, with the political representatives of the capital, in the name of the reinforcement of democracy in the EU, proves once more their dangerous role. The various “citizens’ initiatives” and the like cannot mask the reactionary face of the EU. They will not prevent the intensification of the class struggle, the people’s fights throughout the EU that put in doubt the entire anti-popular edifice.

Today, it is an imperative that the platform of demands and the forms of struggle, such as struggle committees, collections of signatures, demonstrations and strikes, or even more complex forms stemming from the class struggle itself, serve the redeployment and counter-attack of the workers’ movement, for the reinforcement of the sociopolitical alliance of the working class and the poor people’s strata in the city and on the countryside, against the imperialist unions and the monopolies, in order to pave the way for the people’s prosperity.

Article of Giorgos Toussas,
member of the CC of the KKE,
responsible of the Department on European Policy of the CC of the KKE,
member of the European Parliament
Rizospastis, 9 January 2011


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