Wednesday, 18 February 2009

EU citizenship: Right of petition

One of the rights of citizens of the European Union is the right of petition, extended to other residents of the EU.

The subject matter has to come within the Community's fields of activity and it must affect the petitioner directly, which means that general grievances are inadmissible.

We look at the current treaty provisions, the Treaty of Lisbon and the European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure before suggesting a few web pages with information about the Committee on Petitions (PETI).


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Current treaty

According to Article 21(1) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (TEC) every citizen of the Union has the right to petition the European Parliament in accordance with Article 194.

Article 194 TEC actually broadens the scope of petitioners beyond EU citizens. The right extends to atural persons residing in a member state (third country nationals) and to legal persons having their residence or registered office in a member state.

Not all grievances are admissible.

The matter has to come within the European Community’s fields of activity.

The matter must affect the petitioner(s) directly (OJEU 29.12.2006 C 321 E/133):

Article 194 TEC

Any citizen of the Union, and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State, shall have the right to address, individually or in association with other citizens or persons, a petition to the European Parliament on a matter which comes within the Community's fields of activity and which affects him, her or it directly.


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Original Lisbon Treaty

Article 2, point 182 of the original Treaty of Lisbon amended Article 193 TEC and point 183 amended Article 195 TEC (OJEU 17.12.2007 C 306/102).

This means that there were no specific amendments to Article 194 TEC.


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Consolidated Lisbon Treaty

The Community’s fields of activity became the Union’s according to the customary horizontal amendment and the provision was renumbered in the consolidated Lisbon Treaty, as Article 227 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (OJEU 9.5.2008 C 115/150):


Article 227 TFEU
(ex Article 194 TEC)

Any citizen of the Union, and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State, shall have the right to address, individually or in association with other citizens or persons, a petition to the European Parliament on a matter which comes within the Union's fields of activity and which affects him, her or it directly.


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Comment

In the Lisbon Treaty the EU citizenship provision corresponding to Article 21 TEC is Article 24 TFEU, which refers to Article 227 TFEU.

Article 44 of the Charter of the Fundamental Rights of the European Union is the third place where the right to petition is enshrined (OJEU 14.12.2007 C 303/11):

Article 44 Charter
Right to petition

Any citizen of the Union and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State has the right to petition the European Parliament.


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EP Rules of Procedure

The Title VIII Rules 191 to 193 of the European Parliament’s Rules of Procedure contain more details on petitions (16th edition, October 2008):



TITLE VIII PETITIONS

Rule 191 Right of petition

1. Any citizen of the European Union and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State shall have the right to address, individually or in association with other citizens or persons, a petition to Parliament on a matter which comes within the European Union's fields of activity and which affects him, her or it directly.

2. Petitions to Parliament shall show the name, nationality and permanent address of each petitioner.

3. Petitions must be written in one of the official languages of the European Union.

Petitions written in any other language will be considered only where the petitioner has attached a translation or summary drawn up in an official language of the European Union. The translation or summary shall form the basis of Parliament's work. Parliament's correspondence with the petitioner shall employ the official language in which the translation or summary is drawn up.

4. Petitions shall be entered in a register in the order in which they are received if they comply with the conditions laid down in paragraph 2; those that do not shall be filed, and the petitioner shall be informed of the reasons therefor.

5. Petitions entered in the register shall be forwarded by the President to the committee responsible, which shall first ascertain whether the petitions registered fall within the sphere of activities of the European Union.

6. Petitions declared inadmissible by the committee shall be filed; the petitioner shall be informed of the decision and the reasons therefor.

7. In such cases the committee may suggest to the petitioner that he contact the competent authority of the Member State concerned or of the European Union.

8. Unless the petitioner asks for it to be treated in confidence, it shall be entered in a public register.

9. Where the committee deems it appropriate, it may refer the matter to the Ombudsman.

10. Petitions addressed to Parliament by natural or legal persons who are neither citizens of the European Union nor reside in a Member State nor have their registered office in a Member State shall be registered and filed separately. The President shall send a monthly record of such petitions received during the previous month, indicating their subject matter, to the committee responsible for considering petitions, which may request those which it wishes to consider.



Rule 192 Examination of petitions

1. The committee responsible may decide to draw up a report or otherwise express its opinion on petitions it has declared admissible.

The committee may, particularly in the case of petitions which seek changes in existing law, request opinions from other committees pursuant to Rule 46.

2. An electronic register shall be set up in which citizens may lend their support to the petitioner, appending their own electronic signature to petitions which have been declared admissible and entered in the register.

3. When considering petitions or establishing facts, the committee may organise hearings of petitioners or general hearings or dispatch members to establish the facts of the situation in situ.

4. With a view to preparing its opinions, the committee may request the Commission to submit documents, to supply information and to grant it access to its facilities.

5. The committee shall, where necessary, submit motions for resolutions to Parliament on petitions which it has considered.

The committee may also request that its opinions be forwarded by the President to the Commission or the Council.

6. The committee shall inform Parliament every six months of the outcome of its deliberations.

The committee shall, in particular, inform Parliament of the measures taken by the Council or the Commission on petitions referred to them by Parliament.

7. The President shall inform petitioners of the decisions taken and the reasons therefor.



Rule 193 Notice of petitions

1. Notice shall be given in Parliament of the petitions entered in the register referred to in Rule 191(4) and the main decisions on the procedure to be followed in relation to specific petitions. Such announcements shall be entered in the minutes of proceedings.

2. The title and a summary of the texts of petitions entered in the register, together with the texts of the opinions and the most important decisions forwarded in connection with the examination of the petitions, shall be made available to the public in a database, provided the petitioner agrees to this. Confidential petitions shall be preserved in the records of Parliament, where they shall be available for inspection by Members.


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We note that the current Article 194 TEC speaks of matters coming within the fields of activity of the Community, whereas the EP Rules of Procedure refer to the European Union’s field of activity.

If the Lisbon Treaty enters into force, Article 227 TFEU will refer to a matter which comes within the Union's fields of activity, but nothing says that the member states (Council) will want to contribute to petitions with regard to the CFSP and CSDP. At least we will have to wait for petition practice to evolve.


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European Parliament information

The European Parliament offers five web pages with readable information about Petitions:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/parliament/public/staticDisplay.do;jsessionid=774E682BEF855A02BF18F0B99FE49F68.node2?language=EN&id=49



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EP Committee on Petitions (PETI)


News and information about the EP’s Committee on Petitions can be found on:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/activities/committees/homeCom.do?language=EN&body=PETI


For the seriously inclined, the web pages on Reports may be of interest:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/activities/committees/reportsCom.do?language=EN&body=PETI


The same can be said for draft reports:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/activities/committees/draftReportsCom.do?language=EN&body=PETI


An overview of the work of the Committee on Petitions is offered by the fresh (9 February 2009) draft Report on the deliberations of the Committee on Petitions during the parliamentary
year 2008 (2008/2301(INI)); rapporteur: Mairead McGuinness:


http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+COMPARL+PE-418.130+01+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN


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EP and EU citizenship

A related topic: The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) conducted a hearing on European citizenship on 16 February 2009.

The hearing was related to the 5 February 2009 draft Report on Problems and prospects concerning European Citizenship (2008/2234(INI); rapporteur: Urszula Gacek. The draft Report, 2008/2234(INI), is available here:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//NONSGML+COMPARL+PE-419.850+02+DOC+PDF+V0//EN&language=EN



Ralf Grahn