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by Mary Harrington
Monday, 4
November 2019

Parasols in space? Pet sensors on cars? What Europe really wants…

Since mid-2018, the European Commission has collected policy ideas within a citizens' forum. I took a look inside...
by Mary Harrington

Since the Lisbon Treaty, the European Commission encourages EU citizens to ‘participate in the democratic life of the European Unionby launching a European Citizens’ Initiative. By forming a committee, obtaining enough campaign partners to publicise the initiative and obtaining at least one million signatures, EU citizens can oblige the EU to respond to a policy request. (Though even a million signatures do not oblige the EU to deliver the requested policy.)

Since mid-2018, the Commission has collated ideas for initiatives within the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum. At the time of writing, it contains about 75 ideas for initiatives. It is an interesting mixture.

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Some are unimpeachably practical, on topics such as salting roads or training rural nurses. Others show more ‘blue-sky’ thinking, such as equipping every home in the EU with a miniature plastic-recycling plant or reducing global warming with a parasol in space.

Many contributors express a desire to ban things, such as unpaid internships, anonymous internet accounts, chewing gum, the attention economy, and (on 9 May, which is Europe Day) the display by official buildings of any flag but the EU one.

Elsewhere, the euro-federalist force is strong. Tony Venables wishes all EU citizens to have an automatic right to vote wherever in the EU they reside, while Cezar Martinez Razola even suggests moving the political machinery of Belgium elsewhere and donating the entire city of Brussels to the EU.

Somewhat alarmingly, Emil Mihaylov suggests reducing traffic deaths by implementing a surveillance system of hundreds of thousands of drones controlled from aerostatic platforms, giving traffic officers the power to hector dangerous drivers by remote control.

And, heartbreakingly, Theresa Cameron dedicates her initiative idea ⁠— for animal-detecting sensors compulsorily fitted to the front of all cars, forcing the car to brake if an animal crosses in front of it ⁠— to ‘Minnie, just five years old, killed by a car in a quiet residential area’.

Since the inception of European Citizens’ Initiatives, a total of four have met the Commission’s requirements and prompted a response.

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