The European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) is an instrument of participatory democracy that allows EU citizens to invite the Commission to submit a proposal for a European law. Compared to other forms of EU level participatory democracy the Commission has fewer control over the participants. Furthermore, the ECI is issue oriented, embraces a limited time horizon, and offers to collect statements of support online. That makes the ECI suitable for citizens' changing participatory demands. The first hypothesis focuses on the ECI opening the 'closed shop' of EU politics for new civil society actors which have never been involved in EU politics before. These new actors are not familiar with rules and procedures in EU politics and will challenge the informal institutions in EU politics. The EU institutions (e.g. the parliament and the commission) have to react to these challenges. Their reaction will depend on the structures of meaning which they apply to the ECI.The paper will investigate the first hypothesis by analysing the types of organisers of the first initiatives (starting in April 2012) and exam cases that have already been conducted. Based on a discourse analysis of documents from the decision-making process and the implementation of the regulation on the citizens' initiative the paper will identify structures of meaning which the EU institutions' apply to the ECI. Due to the fact that the first initiatives will not be completed before autumn 2013, the paper will develop scenarios describing possible reactions of the EU institutions to the ECI as hypotheses for further research.
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