(CN) – Amid a startling rise in nationalism across the European Union after an influx of refugees from war-torn Syria and Northern Africa, the European Commission on Wednesday greenlighted signature-gathering for an initiative aimed at stopping the backlash against migrants.
The commission’s registration of the initiative titled “We Are a Welcoming Europe, Let Us Help” as an official European Citizens’ Initiative means organizers have a year to collect 1 million signatures from EU citizens in at least a quarter of the member states. If successful, the commission will then decide whether to act on the initiative legislatively.
According to the initiative’s supporters, there are many EU citizens who want to help refugees, despite rising nationalistic sentiments among citizens and governments alike.
“Governments are struggling to handle migration. Most of us want to help people in need because we care. Millions have stood up to help. Now we want to be heard. Let’s reclaim a Welcoming Europe!” the initiative’s organizers say. They call on the commission to “support local groups that help refugees, stop governments punishing volunteers, and defend victims of exploitation, crime and human rights abuses.”
The commission’s registration of the initiative comes amid rising right-wing populism across Europe. This past October, Austria’s conservative People’s Party won national elections by aligning itself with the far-right Freedom Party, taking a hard line on immigration and Muslim groups and vowing to cut benefits to refugees.
France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who was defeated by Emmanuel Macron in the 2017 presidential elections there, called the change in Austrian politics “good news for Europe.”
Right-wing populists hold both the presidency and a governing majority in Poland.
The initiative approved for signature-gathering Wednesday joins six other active European Citizens’ Initiatives on topics ranging from the repeal of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, promoting diversity and stopping extremism.