February 26th 2015 was a big day for End Ecocide: Two hearings took place in the European Parliament:
- one in the morning to discuss the European Citizens’ Initiative in the light of the upcoming revision of the legislation
- one in the afternoon to discuss End Ecocide. We were the first ECI that was discussed as petition while it hadn’t achieved one million signatures.
As most of you know we started as a European Citizens’ Initiative”End Ecocide in Europe” with a team of just 7 people. We believed this new tool for direct democracy will help us bring the issue of Ecocide on the European agenda, our experience with it was difficult but also inspiring, it helped us reach to a lot of people and create a big network of volunteers. Last year at our Conference “Future Generations depend on present decisions” in Brussels we organized a special workshop together with the ECI campaign on how to improve the European Citizens’ Initiative. That is why the hearing on the review of the ECI regulation was very important for us. The second hearing was the long-awaited our initiator Prisca Merz was there, here is her summary of the day:
The day started with heavy security checks due to terrorist warnings in Brussels. We made it just on time to the hearing on the improvement of the ECI legislation. The ECI currently doesn’t work. Data requirements exclude some EU citizens from signing and we have lost more than every second supporter’s vote due to restrictive data requirements (only 44% of those clicking on sign now actually signed). This is outrageous and a real shame for this tool that was meant to bring us closer to a real European democracy.
I underlined on behalf of End Ecocide the need for fundamental legal reform and Commissioner Timmermanns committed himself to making reforming the ECI a personal priority. Let’s hope he delivers on his words with the communication expected on April 1st and opens the process for fundamental legal review of the regulation. End Ecocide fully supports the 12 demands for an ECI that works. If you missed the hearing, you can watch the recording here.
The afternoon was dedicated to discussing our petition to End Ecocide. We delivered over 185,500 signatures in support of our proposal to the European Union to adopt a law to prevent Ecocide and we were the first unsuccessful ECI to be heard as a petition. Public demand for such law is thus huge and a number of MEP’s spoke in favour of: Keith Taylor (UK), Andrea Vallina (Spain), Anja Hazekamp (Netherlands), and Eleonora Evi (Italy). The Petition Committee applauded us for all the efforts we’ve made and for raising awareness on the issue of environmental crimes.
The Commission also answered to our demands, saying that existing legislation, including the environmental crimes and environmental liability directives, are enough. However, none of these have been properly implemented and they fall short of protecting ecosystems. Existing legislation could not prevent ecocide in Europe as demonstrating by what is happening in Almeria, Spain, as highlighted by MEP Andrea Vallina, or Rosia Montana, Romania. Not to mention that the proposed Ecocide Directive would also apply to ecocides caused by EU companies outside of the EU (e.g. pollution of Niger delta).
MEP Tatjana Ždanoka from Latvia addressed the European Commission to ask whether their reply would have been any different had we collected 1 million instead of 185,000 signatures. The Commission responded that it is difficult to say as this is a collective decision, it would certainly have triggered the routine procedure, but nevertheless if an ECI doesn’t manage to reach the 1 million signatures it definitely needs political debate, which is what this hearing is about.
As suggested by the MEP’s who supported our presentation, End Ecocide petition will go on the be discussed in the Parliament’s Environmental, Legal, Agricultural and Fisheries committees. This is great news for us, because the debate in the European institutions continues and we look forward to discussing with our, the people’s, representatives.
The recording of the hearing is available here (from 07.50-44:00). The Petitions Committee concluded by referring the discussion to the Parliament’s Environmental, Legal, Agricultural and Fisheries committees. The debate in the European institutions thus continues and we look forward to a fruitful debate, leading to a world without ecocide.