Official EU initiative for UBI: yet undiscovered in Malta, Estonia reached half of quota, Slovenia still on the top


Less than eight months before the current deadline of signature collection for the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) “Start Unconditional Basic Incomes (UBI) throughout the EU” (https://sign.eci-ubi.eu), the initiative has been almost untouched by the citizens of Malta, the smallest EU member.

While the citizens of Slovenia reached their national quota of 5640 signatures year ago and have yet collected 6475 signatures, and Estonia just reached 50% of its quota, having 2474 signatures, – both are small countries – there are only 38 maltese signatures. By 12 November, more than 158 200 statements of support were totally collected.

Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) is a permanent and universal payment from state to each individual with no means test in order to ensure without any bureaucracy their ability to live in dignity, preventing their falling in poverty and social death and ensuring them by this way a real independence with a real freedom of choices.

For example, it is therefore expected to make the exit from domestic violence easier for the victim and encourage people to express in public their opinions which may be opposed to those of their employers. Due to a universality, a UBI could make unneeded most of the current social benefits, thus also their administration.

Since the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic, advocates have also indicated that a UBI would be the most efficient solution to survive such crises, including lockdowns. It is expected to make unnecessary any state’s salary support for employers who have to send workers home to wait for better times while, on the other hand, it would stabilize via everyone the income and work of companies providing the most necessary products and services.

If an ECI is successful,  the European Commission is obliged to start work on implementing the initiative’s proposal. Unlike many popular petition environments (like wemove.eu), the ECI has an official status. 

To be successful, the ECI must collect at least one million signatures and at least seven countries must reach their national quota which depends on the number of MEPs. Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg are each represented with six members in the European Parliament, thus their national quota of signatures is 4230. Estonia with its seven MEPs has a quota of 4935 signatures, The quota-related restriction is aimed to avoid the situation where an ECI has collected neede one million signatures but all of them from a single or few big countries.

The initiative demands for the European Commission to take action aimed to initiate the process of introducing UBI in all of the 27 member countries. The European Parliament can then adopt some kind of broad guidelines, but not introduce a single EU-wide UBI – each country will choose independently their own model of UBI to introduce. That’s the reason for a plural form in the ECI title (Basic Incomes).

The at-risk-of-poverty threshold or higher is considered to be the ideal UBI amount. Last year, it was 812 eur/month in Malta (Eurostat), but some pragmatic ideas also suggest smaller amounts. For example – last year, Estonian activists proposed to consider the average standard expenditure per child as the smallest affordable UBI amount per person since one’s birth. In Estonia, this means currently 400 euros per month. It corresponds to the purchasing power of 422 eur in Malta and has almost the same purchasing power as 565 euros in France, the current maximum amount of their welfare scheme RSA. The latter is widely considered to be an affordable amount of French “citizen’s base” (socle citoyen, SC)[1], the concept of which has been under discussion for more than a year.

With about 7% of the world population involved, this ECI is considered to be the largest UBI-campaign ever in the world. Therefore the success of this ECI is expected to encourage the UBI movements outside the EU to demand the introduction of UBI in their countries.

The previous ECI on UBI (2013/14) which was not successful got 285 042 signatures in total, including 194 from Malta. 


[1] According to the idea, the SC is not a sum transferred to the bank account but a constant by which the citizen’s income tax (would be a flat tax with rate of 30-35%; 32% needed if SC=RSA) will be diminished. The result of calculation – tax credit could be positive, negative or zero. If negative, it goes to the citizen, if positive – to the state.

Estonian