The new European initiative process launched Sunday. Yes, that was April 1, and no, this isn’t a joke. This is the world’s first transnational process. You have to gather 1 million signatures, meeting minimum threshholds across at least seven countries, to qualify a measure. There is no ballot – not yet – but the resulting initiative is introduced as legislation and must be considered by the European government. In the EU, that’s a big deal – it puts the people on part with national governments, who also have the power to introduce legislation.

Since the Europeans are having an initiative season at the same time as we Californians, I checked in on what issues the people of Europe (and, ahem, wealthy interests) want considered. And much of it looks familiar.

You can put the EU measures in two categories.


-GMO. Right now, an initiative to mandate labeling of genetically modified food is circulating in California. A similar measure is being planned in Europe.

-Former Officials Touting Budget Reform. A former advisor to the late French President Mitterand has a complicated measure that would institute a new budget and fiscal system for the EU. As we know in California, budget reforms often come from former officials.

-Education reform. California has seen efforts to change teaching and school funding. In Europe, parents’ groups are trying to make a European baccalaureate curriculum a continental standard.

-No nukes. One measure backed by European environmentalists would phase out all nuclear power plants. This has been a frequent topic of California initiative proposals, including one filed last year.

-Occupy! The Occupy crowd here has mostly confined itself to camping in front of City Halls and clashing with police. In Europe, they actually have their act together and have a clear agenda: a measure that would guarantee a basic income for EU citizens.

-Populist blast at government waste that doesn’t save that much money. A common feature of California initiative season, the Europeans have their own: a measure that  would end the practice of having two EU seats of government (one in Brussels, the other in Strasbourg, France). This measure would shut Strasbourg.


-Water! Yes, California has had some big votes on water, but the human rights-obsessed Europeans go much further. Unions have a measure that would make access to water and sanitation a human right.

-Free speech on the Internet. That’s what is being sought by those who opposed to anti-piracy laws. This could become an issue for technology and entertainment firms here in California.

-Student exchanges. One measure would create a new European service to promote student exchange programs.

Vive la difference!