Written by Nikolai Atanassov
The right to petition the European Parliament (EP) was formally set out in the Maastricht Treaty as one of the rights of European Union citizenship. Parliament’s predecessors, from the beginnings of the Communities in the 1950s, had already recognised the importance of receiving petitions from citizens, and this has become a major expression of the Parliament’s role as direct representative of EU citizens. The EP’s practice is based on those of national parliaments, though is more extensive compared to many national parliaments in terms of scope.
The right of petition has developed substantially over time. In particular petitions addressed to the EP’s Committee on Petitions (PETI Committee) and then transferred to the Commission can potentially lead to infringement procedures against Member States. There are, however, still some issues over effectively ensuring the exercise of the right – in particular concerning the responsiveness of the Commission and involving national parliaments more effectively.
These have led to a number of suggestions regarding the deadlines for the Commission to respond to PETI Committee requests for information and follow-up, and on ensuring regular information flow between the EP and the Commission. Other practical proposals deal with cooperation with national parliaments, in particular through a network involving the EP and national parliaments, and the closer involvement of Member States’ representatives in the PETI Committee’s meetings. Suggestions also concern achieving greater visibility and effectiveness of the PETI Committee within the European Parliament itself, including developments of its own procedure.