Launch of European Citizens’ Initiative for EU legislation to impose traditional view of marriage
The new ECI
On 15 October 2015, a “citizens’ committee” submitted an official request to the European Commission to register the European Citizens’ Initiative, ECI, MUM, DAD & KIDS. This request, which represents the first stage in the ECI process outlined below, is the official registering of this initiative by the European Commission. The Commission has until 15 December 2015 to give its response and a positive response will trigger the official gathering of signatures for the petition.
Based upon the premise “the family is the building block for the whole of society”, Article 16(3), Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (UDHR), the Citizens’ Committee suggests that “[i]t is for this reason that the founders of the European Union ensured that the subsidiarity principle applied to everything to do with the family, which is the exclusive responsibility of Member States.” However, since “the conception of marriage and the family is the subject of increasingly divergent views from one European country to another,” it concludes that it is becoming “no longer clear what is meant, European texts are becoming impossible to interpret and apply”, and consequently [emboldening in original]:
“[t]he EU has therefore an urgent need for clear and precise definitions of marriage and the family. Of course, it is necessary that these definitions should contribute to European unity by being based on the common foundation of all Member States, that which reflects the universal reality of humanity – marriage between man and woman, and the binds [sic] of father, mother, child.”
European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI)
The right to petition the European Parliament was introduced through the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and now forms Article 227 TFEU of the Lisbon Treaty and Article 44 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Under these provisions, any EU citizen, or natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State, has 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.
The detailed requirements for ECIs are set out in Regulation (EU) 211/2011; more than one million signatures must be collected in at least 5 Member States in which the number collected must exceed the minimum for that country as defined in Annex I. These criteria are designed: to ensure that proposed petitions represent an European point of view; and to address significant differences in population, [minima of 74,250 in Germany to 3,750 in Malta to reflect their respective populations of 82 million and 410,000].
Regulation 211/2011 came into force on 1 April 2012: there are currently four open initiatives; four closed initiatives [three answered by the Commission and one still to be submitted]; and twenty-five obsolete initiatives [ten withdrawn, and fifteen with insufficient support]. In addition, a total of twenty-four initiatives have been refused registration.
“One of Us”
“ It’s (sic) goal is to greatly advance the protection of human life from conception in Europe – within the possibilities of the competency of the EU. Based on the definition of the human embryo as the beginning of the development of the human being, which was given in a recent ECJ judgment (Brüstle v Greenpeace), ‘One of Us’ asks the EU to end the financing of activities which presuppose the destruction of human embryos, in particular in the areas of research, development aid and public health”.
Although the initiative attracted 1,721,626 signatures and exceeded the threshold in 18 Member States (but not in the UK), it did not progress beyond its formal review, i.e. the meeting between Commission representatives and the organizers, and its presentation initiative by the organizers at a public hearing in the European Parliament, Commission Communication, COM(2014) 355 final, concluded inter alia:
“EU primary legislation explicitly enshrines human dignity, the right to life, and the right to the integrity of the person. The EU Financial Regulation states that all EU expenditure should comply with EU primary legislation. Therefore the Commission does not see a need to propose changes to the Financial Regulation.”
“One of Us” is currently pursuing an action in the CJEU against this decision inter alia, Case T-561/14 – One of Us & ors v Parliament & ors  OJ C 409/45
“MUM, DAD & KIDS”
The current request for the registration of MUM, DAD & KIDS, raises a number of problematic issues:
- in view of the “increasingly divergent [and equally legislatively legitimate] views from one European country to another,” it is difficult to justify the imposition of a single approach favoured by some groups;
- the assertion that a single approach should be based on a definition of “marriage between man and woman” does not take into consideration the fact that ten countries of the EU recognise (or are about to recognise) same-sex marriage: Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom (except for Northern Ireland). The implementation of Article 1, Scope, would therefore be difficult, viz.
“Leaving intact the competence of Member States to legislate on marriage and the family within their own sphere of competence, this Regulation applies to all legal acts adopted by the European Union on the basis of the TEU and the TFEU, and to all measures adopted by Member States to transpose or implement such legal acts of the EU”.
- Likewise, the ETI impacts on the legislation of the countries of the EU that currently recognize civil partnerships, which are recognized across the EU except for Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia.
- the effect of the proposed Article 4 on repealing: Article 2 (2) of Directive 2004/38/EC [on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States]; Article (2)(1)(b) of Directive 2012/29/EU [establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime], is to remove the rights currently held by some of those currently defined as “family members”, viz.
– the partner with whom the Union citizen has contracted a registered partnership, on the basis of the legislation of a Member State, if the legislation of the host Member State treats registered partnerships as equivalent to marriage and in accordance with the conditions laid down in the relevant legislation of the host Member State; and
– the spouse, the person who is living with the victim in a committed intimate relationship, in a joint household and on a stable and continuous basis, the relatives in direct line, the siblings and the dependants of the victim,
respectively. Furthermore, the current draft keeps the option open further to extend these repeals to other Directives containing references to “family” and “marriage”.
 Article 3 of the ECI legislation, Regulation 211/2011, identifies “citizens’ committees” as bodies which may submit petitions to the European Commission.
 D N Pocklington, “Petitions and e-petitions; EU Citizens’ Initiative; Petitioning vs Lobbying”, (2011) 23 ELM (5) 321.
 Whilst reading like an exaggerated version of Leporello’s “Catalogue Aria”, mathematically the minimum number equates to the number of MEPs multiplied by 750.
 The footnote to the presently blank bullet point 3 of Article 4 states “To be completed”.