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European Citizens' Initiative

CitizenCentral podcast

CitizenCentral puts a spotlight on European citizens’ initiatives. In each episode, initiative organisers and supporters tell us why their initiative is important and how they experience awareness raising at EU level, and share tips as they aim to have a greater say in polices that affect our lives.

Interviews with different policy experts and academics further explore the issues put forward by these citizen initiatives.

You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and SoundCloud.

The opinions expressed in the podcasts reflect solely the point of view of the speakers and can in no way be taken to reflect the position of the European Commission or of the European Union.

Meet the people behind European citizens' initiatives in the episode show notes below.

3.2: What impact do European citizens’ initiatives have? Examples from successful initiatives

EU citizens often ask for examples of the impact of European citizens’ initiatives, so in this episode we take a closer look at three initiatives that reached more than 1 million signatures and received a reply from the Commission. We hear from an organiser of each of the three initiatives, ‘Ban glyphosate’ [Ban glyphosate and protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides], ‘End the Cage Age’, and ‘Right2Water’ [Water and sanitation are a human right! Water is a public good, not a commodity!].  

On each initiative, we speak with European Commission officials who give more details on the actions taken in response to the successful initiatives.  

In 2023, the Commission replies to four more successful citizens’ initiatives [April, July and December].

Episode published: June 2023

3.1: The ABCs of ‘EU Democracy in Action’ - presenting a European Citizens’ Initiative Toolkit

In this episode we speak about on-going efforts to make the ECI common European knowledge – starting with high school students. The ‘EU Democracy in Action – Have Your Say with the European Citizens’ Initiative’ Toolkit  was developed by the European Commission and piloted in secondary schools in early 2023.  

Interviews come from many different angles: we hear from MEP Loránt Vincze, who was an organiser of a ECI campaign “back in the day” and who is an avid supporter of citizenship education, and Małgorzata Malczyk, an English teacher who piloted the toolkit in a school in Poland. In addition, Silvia Kersemakers, the team leader of the ECI team in Brussels gives insights into why the toolkit was developed and we hear the voices of several young people – showing there’s scope for increasing awareness about the European Citizens’ Initiative. 

Episode published: June 2023 

2.4: For animals, people and planet! Hear the voices of people proposing new solutions to old practices

In this episode of CitizenCentral, animal products are up for discussion with two European citizens’ initiative organisers. They believe modern technologies offer solutions to what they consider old and unsustainable practices, and that the technology can benefit animals, people and planet. 

Filippo Borsellino, organiser of the ‘End the Slaughter Age’ initiative, focuses on transferring EU subsidies from livestock farming to cell- and plant-based alternatives. We also hear from a guest running a Spanish start-up that produces cultivated meat alternatives.  

Elise Fleury is the representative of the ‘Fur Free Europe’ initiative, which aims to ban fur farms and farmed fur products from the European market. In addition to discussing this issue, she shares insights on how to run a successful ECI campaign.

Episode published: January 2023

2.3: Fair pay and fair play: Meet Europeans campaigning for transparency

Join us in a conversation with 3 citizens’ initiative organisers from the Netherlands, France and Denmark. Kirsten Kossen, organiser of ‘Good Clothes, Fair Pay’ initiative asks for legislation on a living wage for workers in the garment and footwear sectors. The initiative asks for more transparency and accountability in the supply chain, aiming to reduce poverty and combat child labour.   

We also hear from Ronan Evain, executive director of Football Supporters Europe and representative of the ‘Win it on the Pitch’ initiative. This group of organisers want to protect the European model of sport and prevent any more ‘super-league-style' breakaway attempts. They aim to officially recognise the social value of sport in European society and involve fans in discussions about the long-term future of European sport.  

Finally, we visit Pernille Schriver in Demark who is a representative of the ‘Stop 5G – Stay Connected but Protected’ initiative. This initiative combines concerns from many groups and aims to address alleged radiation, environmental, data collection and surveillance issues associated with wireless connectivity.  

Disclaimer: The Commission does not in any way confirm the factual correctness of the content of the ‘Stop 5G’ initiative, which is the sole responsibility of the group of organisers. In fact, a number of the claims made in this initiative run contrary to the body of scientific evidence available to the Commission, and to the assessments made by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP), the body mandated by the World Health Organisation to assess the risks for health. 

Episode published: December 2022

2.2: Citizen lobbyists and future leaders: Hear the voices of young Europeans

In this chapter, we hear from a group of young Europeans (26 and under) from 9 different EU countries as they share ideas on voting, EU policymaking, citizen activism and the European Citizens’ Initiative. They also tell us what ideas they would like to see turned into citizens’ initiatives.

We also hear from Daniela Vancic from Democracy International, and Paco Camas of public opinion research company Ipsos. Daniela argues that the ECI and other participatory tools help young people engage with the issues they care about, and Paco gives us facts and figures on young people’s participation in the EU today.

Finally, we hear from two organisers of the citizens’ initiative “Ending the aviation fuel tax exemption in Europe” (also called ‘Fairosene’). These two young citizen lobbyists reflect upon their campaign and why it ended on a high note.

Episode published: September 2022

2.1: Recycling and VAT rates: Meet Europeans in search of sustainable solutions

Featuring ‘ReturnThePlastics’ and ‘Green VAT’

CitizenCentral returns for a second season! Join us as we talk with two citizen initiative organisers taking different approaches to sustainability and consumer behaviour, as well as three climate and sustainability experts across the EU.

Omar Pérez of the ‘ReturnThePlastics’ initiative explains how this group of organisers aim to replicate recycling systems that already exist in several EU countries. As the results of existing systems start to show, their idea is to install an EU-wide deposit scheme to recycle plastic bottles, using reverse vending machines in supermarkets. A big question remains – who should pay for this system?

Brigitta Hartmann represents the ‘Green VAT’ initiative, which calls for tax reductions on organic, sustainably-produced or environmentally-friendly products in Europe. The goal is both to give consumers more choice and to encourage companies to rethink how products are made. But, you may ask, would there still be a tax base if all products become green?

1.7: European Citizens’ Initiative @10: new initiatives and fond memories

Featuring the initiatives ‘Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics’, ‘Stop Global Warming – a price for carbon to fight climate change’ and ‘Fraternité 2020 - Mobility. Progress. Europe.’

In 2022 we celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the European Citizens' Initiative, and in this chapter we meet organisers from the past, present and (potentially) future - Simona Pronckutė, Dr Julia Baines and Virginia Fiume.

Save Cruelty Free Cosmetics is a initiative aiming to fully ban cosmetics ingredient tests on animals and modernise science to make it free of animal testing. And they want to become the fastest initiative to reach 1 million signatures!

After two years of campaigning and the signature collection period closing in the summer of 2021, Virginia Fiume shares insightful reflections from the Stop Global Warming initiative. She and her colleagues have channelled their experience with the citizens' initiative into the EUMANS.eu project and promise to be back!

Finally, we hear from an organiser of the first-ever registered citizens' initiative ‘Fraternité 2020 - Mobility. Progress. Europe.’ What was Simona’s experience like 10 years ago – and how has taking part in a European Citizens' Initiative influenced her life?

Note: Response of the European Chemicals Agency to animal testing and the PETA campaign: https://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/reach/animal_en.htm

1.6: Vaccines and copyright - meet the Europeans fighting for changes in EU policies

Featuring the ‘Freedom to Share’, and ‘Right to Cure’ initiatives

This chapter of CitizenCentral shines a light on copyright and intellectual property (IP) rights. Gregory Engels, representing the Freedom to Share initiative, aims to influence European copyright law and legalise file sharing via digital networks.

Julie Steendam, for her part, represents the ‘Right to Cure’ (also called ‘No profit on pandemic’) initiative, which calls on the European Commission to make sure all vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus are available to everyone world-wide and at no cost. Both break down complicated topics related to the impact of copyright and intellectual property laws, our freedom and the cost we pay.

1.5: Conscious consumers – meet Europeans fighting climate change in creative ways

Featuring the initiatives ‘Ban Fossil Fuel Advertising and Sponsorship’ and 'European EcoScore’

In the fifth chapter of CitizenCentral we hear from Silvia Pastorelli and Antoine Thill – two organisers striving to help hold companies responsible and help consumers make sustainable choices – each in different ways.

The Ban Fossil Fuel Ads initiative aims for an EU legislative act prohibiting advertisements for fossil fuels, including for road and water-borne transportation powered by these fuels. It takes inspiration from the ban on tobacco advertisement already in place across the EU and looks to make systemic change for the climate crisis. Meanwhile, organisers of the European EcoScore initiative want a compulsory label providing European consumers with transparent information about the environmental impact of products manufactured or sold in the EU.

Both initiatives were registered and started collecting signatures in mid-2021 - listen to how it is going for them so far.

1.4: Meet the Europeans trying to reclaim our faces and alleviate poverty across the continent

Featuring the initiatives ‘Reclaim Your Face’ and 'Start Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) throughout the EU’

In the fourth chapter of CitizenCentral we hear from Ella Jakubowska and Catarina Neves - discussing different ways to protect fundamental rights and reduce inequality across the EU. Reclaim Your Face - the Civil society initiative for a ban on biometric mass surveillance practices - is trying to strictly regulate the use of biometric technologies in order to avoid undue interference with fundamental rights. The nuances in how people, companies and governments are using technology – and for what purposes and how this impacts our lives – get covered in this episode.

The organisers of Start Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) throughout the EU want the Commission to make a proposal for universal basic income throughout the EU, to improve welfare for European citizens in all EU countries.

1.3: Hear the voices behind the European green wave

Featuring the initiatives ‘Stop Finning – Stop the Trade’, ‘Green Garden Roof Tops’ and ‘Grow scientific progress: crops matter’

In the third chapter of CitizenCentral we hear from Nils Kluger, Almog Sade and Martina Helmlinger - covering environmental topics on land and in the sea.

The Stop Finning - Stop the Trade citizens’ initiative aims to end the trade of shark fins within the EU. The Green Garden Roof Tops initiative – launched by two siblings and a group of friends – wants to use existing empty space on corporations’ rooftops to convert into green areas. We also hear from an organiser of the Grow scientific progress: crops matter initiative. The initiative closed in the summer of 2021, yet her reflections offer many tips for people wanting to work on a citizens' initiative. 

1.2: Power to the people - hear the voices who want to break down the borders in Europe

Featuring the ‘Civil Servant Exchange Program’ and ‘Voters Without Borders’ initiatives

In the second chapter of CitizenCentral we hear from Adam Mazoyer and Rosalie van den Brink as they discuss two European citizens’ initiatives focused on strengthening civic engagement in our communities. The Civil Servant Exchange Program (CSEP) aims to help civil servants learn from one another and better address transnational issues - from natural disasters to cybersecurity and beyond. The Voters Without Borders initiative makes a case for increasing the democratic rights of EU citizens who want to vote in national elections where they live.

1.1: Welcome to CitizenCentral

Featuring the ‘Fridays for Future’ and ‘Save Bees and Farmers’ initiatives

Tune in to the first chapter of CitizenCentral to listen to Paula Reyes and Helmut Burtscher as they discuss 2 European citizens’ initiatives with signature collection periods ending in late-September 2021. ‘Actions on Climate Emergency’ (closing 23 September 2021) and ‘Save bees and Farmers! Towards a bee-friendly agriculture for a healthy environment’ (closing 30 September 2021) are two of the many citizens’ initiatives over the years that relate to climate change and biodiversity.

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