European Citizens’ Initiative “Housing for All” stopped, but still successful

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Eleven months after the start of the European Citizens’ Initiative “Housing for All”, the initiators decided to stop the ECI – as a result of Brexit. In any case, the initiative has been successful.

In terms of content goals achieved

The number of declarations of support collected so far will remain unclear, “nevertheless it can be said that we were successful”, said the ECI spokeswoman. The one million signatures are a politically negotiated target and in any case at best a vehicle to “be allowed” to arrive on the Brussels stage and to be heard. From this number of signatures, the EU Commission is obliged to listen to the demands and officially write a statement. The organizers can also explain their demands in the EU Parliament.

“That has already happened or is already on the way,” says Zauner-Lohmeyer. “In December 2019 we had the opportunity to present” Housing for All at an event in the EU Parliament, which was initiated on the initiative of MEPs. I had the opportunity to explain the Europe-wide housing crisis and our demands in detail.” It has been agreed with the MEPs that this dialogue will continue. The discussions with numerous EU parliamentarians of the Social Democrats, the Conservatives, the Greens and the Left, who support the concerns of the initiators, were extremely constructive and positive. In parliamentary questions they will take up the demands of “Housing for All”. The EU Commission will therefore continue to deal with our topic and demands. Among other things, there was a detailed and long and very constructive discussion about housing with EU Parliament Vice President Othmar Karas as well as with EU Parliament Vice President Dimitrios Papadimoulis. Last but not least, we have a close cooperation with Leilani Farha, the UN special rapporteur on the human right to housing.

Initiative of the European parliament on affordable and decent housing

The EU Parliament has launched a parliamentary initiative, called: Access to decent and affordable housing for all. Housing for all has given important impulses for this and won numerous members of the EU Parliament as supporters. That’s a great success!

“In its current form, we believe that the ECI is rather unsuitable for boosting citizen participation and quickly bringing concerns that move people to the EU level and raising them there. There are practical and incredible bureaucratic hurdles. In addition, the million mark seems to be set quite arbitrarily. The European Citizens’ Initiative urgently needs to be reformed”, says Karin Zauner-Lohmeyer. And: “We are delighted that we have managed to address one of the urgent problems of our time in Brussels: access to affordable living space. The ECI is therefore not the end, but rather the beginning that we can now find solutions for Europe’s housing crisis together with the EU legislation.

Why the ECI has been withdrawn

Due to the changes in the regulations on the European Citizens’ Initiative and the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, we have been forced to withdraw.

We have been informed in written of the effects of the UK’s exit from a legal and organizational point of view, with January 31, 2020. All of the Union’s primary and secondary law will no longer be applicable to the United Kingdom from 31 January 2020 00:00 (CET) (hereinafter the “Withdrawal Date”), in line with the Communication on the effects of the UK’s Exit , the EU regulations in the area of the European Citizens ‘Initiative, in particular Article 11 paragraph 4 of the Treaty on European Union and Regulation (EU) No. 211/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 2011 on the Citizens’ Initiative (“ECI Regulation“) will no longer apply to the United Kingdom from the withdrawal date.

As a result, from the withdrawal date, statements of support from UK citizens will only be considered by the Commission if they are reviewed and certified before the withdrawal date in accordance with Article 8 (1) of the ECI Regulation.

Due to the technical conditions that have been specified and certified by the EU Commission, it is not possible to meet this requirement, because the technical requirements for this are not met. The developers and operators of openECI confirm us in writing: “At the time of the development of openECI there were no requirements that required a partial export / re-import of collected data. These reasonable requirements from the perspective of the upcoming Brexit have therefore not been implemented. Currently, data can only be imported back into the system manually with considerable additional effort.”

This leads us to insurmountable tasks:

  • Export of current records from an ongoing initiative – General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • Filter the related records
  • Reimport of the remaining data records for the safe continuation of the current ECI
  • Ensuring data integrity and data security within the meaning of the GDPR
  • Consolidation of the re-imported data sets with the statements of support made in the meantime for the remaining states during the verification periodA transitional solution was not defined by the transitional regulations that have been in effect since January 1, 2020. Only the regulations contain therein relates to the processing and holding of the ECI 2.0.

“Due to the exit of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the EU, which was formally carried out on January 31, a directive-compliant implementation of a current European Citizens’ Initiative is not possible,” says Karin Zauner- Lohmeyer, spokeswoman for “Housing for All”, according to EU regulations, the organizing team would have had to send UK nationals’ declarations of support, either online or on a paper form, either in the UK itself or in one of the 27 EU member states, to the UK authorities by 30th November 2019 and have them checked in the UK itself – all while the collection is running.

According to IT experts, this specification by the EU Commission would not have been technically and legally possible for electronically submitted support, and practically not for paper sheets. “We therefore decided to cancel and withdraw the EBI at this point, because we have already achieved the main goals of this ECI,” says Zauner-Lohmeyer. The forms and the electronic declarations of support will therefore not be validated.

Facts about the ECI

Start: March 18, 2019
End: February 19, 2020

“Housing for All” was launched by a citizens’ committee, in accordance with EU regulations, consisting of seven citizens from seven countries: Austria, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Germany, Cyprus and Croatia.

Organizations from 23 countries participated. The “Housing for All” initiative unites tenants’ associations – and clubs, trade unions, social and church organizations, human rights organizations, student advocacy groups, pensioners, representatives of city networks, right-to-city movements, progressive initiatives such as getting up and private individuals who are fighting for more affordable housing in Europe.

24. February 2020