Citizens of 28 European countries belonging to 25 different organizations defending life and human dignity have come together to form the European Federation “One of Us,” named after a prominent E.U. citizen’s initiative. According to a statement posted on its website Sept. 6, the organization is a “step forward” made possible “thanks to the way the citizens of 28 countries of the European Union have been working together to create the most successful European citizens' initiative of all … and one capable of doubling the number of signatures that were required by the European Commission.” The federation takes its name from a European Union citizen’s initiative which called for “respect for human life in all European Union governing bodies”; it sought to ban E.U. funding for research and other activities that destroy human embryos. Citizens' initiatives are intended to allow E.U. citizens to introduce proposed legislation into the E.U. parliament. In order to win a hearing, initiatives must receive 1 million signatures from E.U. citizens and a minimum number of signatures from at least seven of the E.U.'s 27 member states within a year of the initiative being introduced. The “One of Us” petition introduced in 2012 received 1 million signatures in early September 2013, nearly two full months before its deadline, and passed the minimum per country requirement in Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Spain. It was only the second citizens’ initiative ever to receive the required support. Continued petition gathering later increased the signature total to nearly 2 million. The European Commission ultimately rejected the initiative, however, choosing not to submit a legislative proposal on the ground that E. U. policy had been recently discussed. The commission said that it deemed the existing embryonic research funding framework to be appropriate. The new “One of Us” coalition is meant to build upon the initiative's grassroots support and widespread momentum, and “wishes to take on the urgent challenges Europe faces in the defense of human life and human dignity.” The federation is neither political nor confessional, and it has among its objectives the “unconditional recognition of the inherent and inalienable human dignity as a source of human freedoms and citizen’s rights. As such it should be inviolable and protected by all the public authorities.” It also seeks “development of a Culture of Life in Europe, through promoting and supporting of activities that involve the advocacy of human life, particularly in its most vulnerable stages of development (conception and gestation, childhood, maternity, illness, disability, old age and end of life).”
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