Finnegan's Take

A startling new survey reveals that Europeans are unaware of new powers bestowed on them by the Lisbon Treaty

Just 14% of Irish people have heard of the European Citizens’ Initiative – a new tool which allows the public put things on the EU’s “to do” list.

If one million people ask the European Commission to act (in an area where it has power), Brussels is meant to get itself in gear. However, the chances of getting one million signatures look slim unless a major effort is made to tell citizens about their new powers.

The ECI was introduced as part of the Lisbon Treaty but hardly anyone knows about it, even in Ireland – a country where the Treaty was debated in some detail. Twice.

A new report by European Movement Ireland found that “in every location and in every age bracket” most people had never heard of the ECI.

Of course, once people were aware of this new tool, the vast majority said they would be willing to use it.

Right on cue, the European Commission representation in Ireland has launched a booklet entitled The EU and its Citizens, although this features only the briefest description of the Citizens’ Initiative.

It doesn’t tell citizens how to use their new powers and says it remains unclear how the Commission will respond when the first ECI inevitably finds its way to Barroso’s desk.

In the European Movement poll, most people said they’d be keen to get more information via television, radio and other traditional media with a surprisingly low proportion suggestion social media channels were the way to go.

Regardless of how it’s done, it’s clear that a serious campaign is needed to inform people about the ECI. The level of public awareness at present is pitiful, as are efforts to promote it.

Hang on. You don’t think the EU would prefer if its citizens didn’t know they could petition the Commission and set the agenda for Brussels…do you?

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