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How eIDAS Enables Participative Democracy in the EU

How eIDAS Enables Participative Democracy in the EU

In the last few decades, we have seen more countries adopt a democratic form of government than ever before in history. For the most part though, citizens do not directly participate in day-to-day governance but rather elect representatives like Members of Parliament or Senators to do that in their stead. These MPs decide on the most important topics for society, which are subsequently debated and legislation may follow.

Historically, the main reason for this representative form of democracy was that it was prohibitively expensive and time-consuming to conduct nationwide referendums to decide on various issues. However, modern technology has greatly alleviated some of these restrictions and led to the creation of initiatives like the ECI, short for the European Citizen’s Initiative.


What is the ECI?

The European Citizen’s Initiative is a participatory democracy instrument that allows European citizens to suggest legislation to the European Commission. The Commission must obviously have the power to legislate on such matters in the first place (trade, agriculture, environment, energy, etc, are some such examples). Certain minimum thresholds are required to submit a proposal, such as one million signatures from at least seven member states. The exact specifics and minimum requirements may be found at this link.

Once a citizen’s initiative crosses the minimum thresholds, the Commission must carefully examine it within three months. This includes a process of meeting the organizers of the initiative, holding a public hearing in the European Parliament where the organizers can put forth their arguments, and finally, a formal response from the Commission along with the rationale for their decision. Some such successful initiatives are detailed here.

The role of eIDAS in enabling ECI

To enable something like the ECI is a significant technical challenge. The solution must provide scalability to enable millions of signatories to participate, must be cost-effective to use, should provide the necessary level of security, and should be portable across platforms and easily integrated into various front-end solutions.

The identification and authentication tools provided by eIDAS address all of these challenges. Additionally, eIDAS covers the legal aspects of digital identification tools across all EU member states, is more user-friendly and provides on-the-spot validation. eIDAS can ensure that there are no issues like double voting and that each voter, indeed, is who he claims to be. A fully digital platform can make it easier for EU citizens to access the European Parliament.


The eIDAS Directive aims to provide the most technically secure and legally sound method of identification and authentication on a large scale and at a reasonable cost. It is a perfect tool for initiatives like ECI to use the eIDAS framework in order to achieve its goal in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. This would go a long way toward ensuring that ECI gets the widespread adoption that it deserves and becomes a positive enabler for participative democracy across the EU.



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References and Further Reading

 Image: Athena and Nike guarding Parliament, courtesy of  Karen, Flickr (CC BY 2.0) enhanced  by VentureSkies