(CN) – The European General Court on Friday overturned the European Commission’s denial of a citizen petition to improve the protection of racial and linguistic minorities, finding the regulatory body had shirked its duty to offer concrete reasons for the rejection.
In an effort to give Europeans more of a voice in the EU’s sprawling bureaucracy, the commission sponsors a citizens’ initiative program. Groups register their ideas for legislative priorities with the commission, which examines the ideas to make sure they adhere to the EU constitution and can be implemented legally.
Once approved, the groups then have a year to collect 1 million signatures from EU citizens in at least seven of the 28 member states. If successful, the commission presents the ideas to the EU Council for implementation.
In 2013, a group of citizens proposed a citizens’ initiative to the commission titled “Minority SafePack – 1 Million Signatures for Diversity in Europe.” The proposal called on the EU to improve protections for people belonging to national and linguistic minorities and to strengthen cultural and language diversity across the continent.
The commission refused to certify the petition for signature-gathering, finding what the petition asked for fell outside what the commission is allowed to propose as law. While the commission acknowledged the respect for the rights of minorities and the prevention of discrimination are enshrined the EU constitution, some but not all the things the group asked for exceeded the scope of what the commission can propose – and it tossed the entire initiative.
But on Friday, the European General Court blasted the commission’s rejection, not necessarily because it was legally incorrect – the court made no determination on that front – but because the commission offered no concrete reasons for its rejection.
Specifically, the Luxembourg-based court said the commission had an obligation to tell the group which of its 11 proposals fell outside the scope of its law-proposing powers and why. Its failure to do so prevented the group from contesting the decision adequately, and also kept the court from reviewing the legality of the commission’s conclusions.
The court added that without specific reasons for the denial, the citizens’ group has no idea how to amend their initiative so that it’s acceptable – further hampering the goal of the citizens’ initiative program to encourage active participation in democracy and to make the EU more accessible.
The commission has 60 days to lodge an appeal with the European Court of Justice.