In 2007 the membership of the committee was expanded from 25 to 40, 1,506 petitions were registered (representing a 50% increase compared to 2006), of which 1,089 were declared admissible and a total of 159 petitioners took part in meetings of the committee. In addition, fact-finding visits were organised to Germany, Spain, Ireland, Poland, France and Cyprus. There are complaints about lack of resources and response to the committees findings. (tags: eu parliament participation 2007 report)
The source documents can be found here: “Report on the deliberations of the Committee on Petitions – Citizens’ petitions during the year 2007” (INI/2008/2028 ). The report for 2007 was drafted in June and on approved by the parliament in September 2008. I’m assuming that parliamentary year 2007 ends in July 2008, so it’s not a bad turnaround.
This speech (by Ireland’s Marian Harkin) from the EP debate on the report makes me realise what a frustrating job it must be to be an MEP!
(The 2006 report is here – I’ve not looked at it in detail though)
The One Seat petition (1.25million signatories) was mentioned, I’m not sure it’s intra vires but the Committee did respond to it and “agrees with the petitioners that Parliament should have a single seat in Brussels, and urges the Member States to agree to this and to set a timetable for this to be brought about”. More on that debate (in February 2008) here.
Almost one third of of submitted petitions were rejected. According to the report, “The largest cause of inadmissibility relates to the question of competence and its corollary, subsidiarity” – ie issues that should have been raised nationally. I need to find out how many of them (if any) were cross-border and had a significant number of signatories – and also how this compares to the rejection rate at (say) the Scottish parliament.
Breakdown by country
There’s a breakdown by country, to which I’ve added data on petitions submitted per million citizens:
Two immediate points: small countries seem to use the facility disproportionately, and 8 countries are missing altogether: Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.
Technical tools used
On the technical front, an area for investigation is the (intranet-based – ie not generally available) petition management tool mentioned in the report:
[We] were able to benefit from the considerable enhancement of the ePetition database and management tool, developed by its secretariat in collaboration with the service responsible for information technology, which provides all members of the Committee and political groups with direct access to all petitions and associated documentation, thus improving their ability to serve petitioners effectively
Though it is noted that:
Parliament failed to provide the resources requested in last year’s resolution on the work of the Committee on Petitions, to improve internet facilities for the petitions process and to give effect to Rule 192(2) of Parliament’s Rules of procedures, which provides that 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”,
[and] the lack of interoperability of the software used by Parliament prevents many citizens from having equal access to the possibility of petitioning Parliament electronically using their own equipment and software,
So there is room for improvement.
Update 4 February: Added Marian Harkin’s name and a link to her site.