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A new European Citizens’ Initiative about Basic Income

The European Commission has agreed that a new European Citizens’ Initiative about Basic Income can begin in November.

Title of citizens’ initiative: Start Unconditional Basic Incomes (UBI) throughout the EU
Date of request for registration: 15/04/2020

Brussels 15/05/2020
Dear organisers, We are pleased to inform you that the European Commission has adopted today the Decision on the registration of your proposed citizen’s initiative …

On the 15th May 2020, the EU Commission agreed to register a Citizens’ Initiative for an EU-wide Unconditional Basic Income (UBI). If the Citizens’ Initiative manages to collect 1,000,000 signatures from at least seven different EU countries within a year of the start of the campaign the European Commission will be required to consider the initiative and respond.

This initiative was started by an international network of activists and initiatives called Unconditional Basic Income Europe (UBIE). This network was first started in the aftermath of a campaign to garner support for a UBI citizens’ initiative back in 2013-2014 which managed to gather 300,000 signatures from over 25 EU countries.

The new initiative asks “the EU Commission to make a proposal for unconditional basic incomes throughout the EU, which reduce regional disparities in order to strengthen the economic, social and territorial cohesion in the EU.” The proposal states the UBI “shall not replace the welfare state”, “is paid to all, without a means test”, and should be unconditional as a “human and legal right.” Moreover the UBI should be “high enough” and “provide for a decent standard of living, which meets the society’s social and cultural standards in the country concerned.” As such, the “net amount of UBI should be at least above the at-risk-of-poverty level according to EU standards, which corresponds to 60% of the so-called national median net equivalent income.”

The timing of the current initiative coincides with the Covid-19 pandemic. Many commentators suggest that a UBI could help countries weather the crisis and help boost economic recovery in its aftermath. UBIE highlighted that effective confinement measures means the “partial or total loss of […] income” for “millions across Europe” and the “risk of falling through social safety nets and into poverty.” The network launched a petition on their website that calls on EU leaders to implement an emergency UBI on the 21st March that has thus far been signed by over 175,000 Europeans. UBIE emphasised that a UBI can help guarantee that every EU citizen’s material well-being is secured and maximises uptake by avoiding increasing bureaucratic burdens on citizens and national administrations.

(As a result of the outbreak, the EU economy is forecasted to contract by 7.5% in 2020 and unemployment is forecast to rise from 6.7% in 2019 to 9% in 2020. The EU Council has agreed that the EU-wide response should be to set-up a “temporary instrument to help workers keep their jobs during the crisis.” It is called SURE, and provides loans to Member States to help pay for “national short-time work schemes and similar measures.”)

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