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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Right of initiative

In order to play its role as guardian of the treaties and defender of the general interest to the full, the Commission was given a right of initiative which empowers and requires it to make proposals on issues contained in the treaty, either because the treaty expressly provides for it, or because the Commission considers it necessary. This power of initiative is:

  • exclusive in the Community sphere, because the principle is that the Commission only decides "on a proposal by the Commission�?, so that any initiative is part of a coherent framework;
  • shared with the Member States in the fields of Common Foreign and Security Policy, as well as certain subjects relating to justice and home affairs.

Moreover, the Council and the European Parliament may invite the Commission to formulate initiatives if they feel it is necessary. This right is considered a fundamental component of the institutional balance of the Community.

The Commission’s right of initiative was extended by the Treaty of Amsterdam to new policies (employment and health), to questions relating to the free movement of persons and the third pillar. In the case of the third pillar, the Commission shares a right of initiative with the Member States.

Right of petition

Right of petition designates the right held by any citizen of the European Union, and by any natural or legal person residing or having his registered office in a Member State, to submit a request or a complaint to the European Parliament concerning a subject coming within the remit of the Community and which concerns it directly (Articles 21 and 194, former Articles 8D and 138D of the EC Treaty).

The Parliamentary Petitions Committee examines the admissibility of the requests. It may, where it deems appropriate, submit a question to the Ombudsman. With a view to preparing its opinion on a petition that is deemed admissible, it may request the European Commission to submit documents or provide information.

Article 21 was supplemented by the Treaty of Amsterdam. A new paragraph specifies that any citizen of the Union may write to any European institution, to the Committee of the Regions, to the Economic and Social Committee or to the European Ombudsman, in one of the official languages of the Union (plus Gaelic) and receive an answer written in the same language.

This page was last modified on : 29-12-2004

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