A promising European Citizens’ Initiative launched for the protection of human life
The registration of the Initiative opens up the expectation that the Commission will propose concrete legislation in this field
On 11 May last, the European Commission registered officially a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) for the protection of human life. This ECI, only the 5th ECI ever registered, is titled “One of Us” (“Uno di Noi” in the original registration language, Italian).
The registration is an important milestone and an important step forward in the ECI procedure, governed by Regulation (EU) No 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2011. Thereby, the European Commission recognised that the conditions of Article 4 (2) of the above-mentioned Regulation were met in order for an invitation to the European Commission to propose legislation on matters within the EU competence to legislate. Namely, the Commission recognised that the subject matter of the proposed ECI “does not manifestly fall outside the framework of the Commission’s powers to submit a proposal for a legal act of the Union for the purpose of implementing the Treaties” (Article 4/2/b).
As is well known, matters directly concerning the protection of human life, such as rules with regard to abortion, for example, are not part of the competences of the EU as defined by the Lisbon Treaty; notwithstanding, in a number of areas under EU competence – such as in research, in cooperation for development in the area of healthcare or, in general, in the EU financial sphere – the protection of human life is sharply at stake. Furthermore, the recent European Court of Justice ruling on the non-patentability of inventions which entail the destruction of human embryos or the use of human embryonic stem cells defines a protective standard that, for the sake of consistency of the EU legal order, shall be applied to all other relevant EU policy areas, such as the above-mentioned, which raise the issue of protecting human life.
Accordingly, the subject matter of “One of Us” is the legal protection of the dignity, the right to life and the integrity of each human being from conception in those areas of EU competence in which such protection is relevant. The Annex to this ECI furnishes some examples of concrete EU legislation whose amendment should be proposed by the European Commission : Council Regulation (EC, Euratom) No 1605/2002 of 25 June 2002, on the Financial Regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Communities, in order to include a new « principle of coherence » by which no EU funds shall be allocated to activities which destroy human embryos or which presuppose such destruction ; Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing Horizon 2020, the Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (2014-2020) (COM(2011) 809 final), in order to introduce in its Article 16 (Ethical Principles) a new field of research that shall not be financed, namely, research that destroys human embryos and research that uses human embryonic stem cells (which are obtained by means of such destruction) ; and Regulation (EC) No 1905/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 establishing a financing instrument for development cooperation, in order to impede any development aid that could be used to directly or indirectly finance abortion.
The organisers of “One of Us” have now one year (ending on 10 May 2013) to collect signatures from EU citizens. The ECI has to be backed by at least one million EU citizens, coming from at least 7 out of the 27 Member States. A minimum number of signatories is required in each of those 7 Member States in order for the Commission to examine the initiative and to adopt a Communication indicating the action proposed in response to the ECI. Despite the fact that it is not obliged to do so, the Commission can decide to put forward a legislative proposal and the normal legislative procedure would then commence.
Although organisations cannot organise ECIs, they can promote or support these initiatives. Pro-life NGOs and Catholic organizations will naturally play a key role for the success of “One of Us”. Clear moral support from the Bishops’ Conferences around Europe is also expected.