Emily O´Reilly, the European Ombudsman, has written to the European Commission advocating a better ECI regulation. Her letter to Jean-Claude Juncker, which was published on July 13th, refers to the ongoing Public Consultation on the ECI and adds a number of her own recommendations.
Notably, the Ombudsman considers that the signature gathering should start when organisers are ready for it: either on the date when the OCS is certified or at a date chosen by the organisers themselves (within a given timeframe), and not on a date arbitrarily chosen by the European Commission.
This has been a point of disagreement between the organisers of the ECI "Mum Dad & Kids" and the European Commission. The Commission had - as it now appears, wrongly - claimed that the signature collection period runs from the day when a new ECI is registered, and lapses one year thereafter, even though it knew perfectly well that after the registration of an ECI a considerable amount of preparatory work is still needed before the signature collection can effectively begin. In this way, the Commission sought to reduce the signature collection period for this ECI from 1 year to 8 months. When "Mum Dad & Kids", which had started collecting signatures on 4 April 2016, continued to collect signatures after the deadline arbitrarily fixed by the Commission (i.e., 10 December 2016), the Commission spread the false information that the signature collection already ended, and put pressure on Member States not to validate the signatures collected between 11 December 2016 and 3 April 2017.
The European Commission has thus actively sabotaged this ECI. There is no doubt that this move was motivated by the Commission's general hostility against the objective pursued by "Mum, Dad & Kids", the protection of marriage and family.
Nevertheless, "Mum Dad & Kids" have been successful in collecting more than one million signatures of EU Citizens within one year despite the Commission's machinations, and thus must be considered to have fulfilled the criteria for a successful ECI.
The organisers have already in May 2017 submitted to the European Ombudsman a formal complaint against the Commission for maladministration. Although the Ombudsman's letter to the Commission of 13 July stands in a different context (and is thus, from a purely formal point of view, not to be considered a follow-up to this complaint, it corroborates and gives weight to the point of view held by "Mum, Dad & Kids". It seems therefore very likely that the complaint filed by the ECI organisers will eventually result in a further formal blame for thre Commission.