Pro-Life Group Sues European Commission Over Democratic Deficit

By | June 2, 2017
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NEW YORK, June 2 (C-Fam) A pro-life group is suing the EU Commission at the European Court of Justice, claiming the Commission usurped the democratic prerogative of the people of Europe when it turned down a pro-life petition with nearly two million signatures.

The Commission “rejected out of hand” the petition collected through a procedure known as European Citizens’ Initiative, or ECI. The Commission found the petition “irritating,” according to British barrister Paul Diamond, who represented the One of Us petition before the European Court of Justice last month.

“What we are asking is for this tribunal to give real effect to the ECI by protecting it from arbitrary refusals. We want you to protect the ECI from bureaucratic discrimination,” Diamond implored the court during oral arguments.

The petition requested action to ensure respect for human life from conception in EU policy and to stop funding for embryo destructive research as well as groups that promote abortion with EU development assistance money.

The Commission rejected the petition two years ago after advocates said they were rudely dismissed in a live hearing they further claim was stacked with EU politicians and bureaucrats opposed to the initiative. Organizers say the Commission did not even reply in full to the petition.

Diamond says the Commission’s rejection of the petition in 2014 violates Article 11 of the EU treaty which establishes the European Citizens’ Initiative procedure.

One million EU citizens may petition the Commission to initiate “any appropriate proposal,” according to that provision of the treaty. So far, the pro-life petition is one of only three petitions to successfully gather the required one million signatures, and the most successful in terms of overall signatures and total EU countries represented.

Article 11 of the EU treaty confers “a right of legislative initiative to the people” and not merely a right to a hearing before the EU Commission, according to One of Us. This can only be fulfilled if the Commission draws up a proposal of legislation or otherwise initiates a legislative process following a successful petition, which did not happen following the collection of signatures for the One of Us petition.

The Commission maintained the same dismissive tone during oral arguments at the Court of Justice, says Diamond.

“There is a right to be received by the Commission and it must make a finding, but no more,” a lawyer for the Commission argued.

He countered the suggestion of a right to legislative initiative with the notion that the Commission had a “monopoly on political initiative” and unfettered discretion in deciding the appropriate follow-up to any citizens’ initiative.

The ECI procedure is one of the mechanisms in the EU treaty designed to remedy the perceived democratic deficit in EU governance. One of Us representatives have noted how the Commission’s stance on One of Us threatens the ECI procedure and the democratic legitimacy of the EU project itself.

Previous judgments of the European Court the Commission would appear to side with One of Us in requiring the Commission to submit a concrete legislative proposal when a petition reaches the required votes.