Thursday, 31 May 2007

Evolution of the idea of citizenship in Europe

The Spanish site History of the European Union and European Citizenship ( illustrates in a simple yet comprehensive way the evolution of the concept of citizenship in the European Union. Many links and citations are provided too, thus being a very good source for documentation.

I have found of particular interest the article Citizenship and Identity ( Hereby an excerpt from this paper:

The Citizenship of the Union is not a consolidated reality, rather, we are attending to the beginning of a long process that will result in one or another way depending on European integration process fate. To fully develop a meaningful European citizenship is necessary that a sort of European identity arise
At the moment, the result of this attempt has been rather disappointing enough. Europeans largely ignore the new citizenship statute, the lack of information is the general rule, and, arguably, the feeling of European identity has not spread so much.
Which are the reasons of this relative failure? Answers, evidently, vary according to the previous views on European integration process.
For the most pro-Europe observers, the Citizenship of the Union, as it is detailed in the Treaties, is a completely insufficient legal statute. [...] the rights yielded by the Citizenship of the Union are quite limited, and the most important, free movement of persons, is not completely developed.
Conversely, there is another opinion, the eurosceptic that consider the advances as excessive and try to put a brake to any subsequent evolution towards political integration an full European citizenship. This view has its strongholds in Britain, especially in the Conservative party, and in Denmark.
In Denmark, the Treaty of the European Union was rejected in a referendum held in June 1992. The Folketing, the Danish Parliament, presented in December to the Edinburgh European Council, a document, Denmark in Europe, that summarised the reluctant Danish view about the advances of the Treaty of Maastricht, and among them, the institution of the Citizenship of the Union.
The Danish delegation approved an unilateral declaration that summarised a great part of the elements of its eurosceptic stage regarding the European citizenship:
" (...) the citizenship of the Union is a political and legal concept that completely differs from the conception of citizenship in the sense that it appears in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Denmark and the Danish legal system (... )
Any disposition of the Treaty neither implies nor foresees a commitment that binds to create a Citizenship Union equivalent to a nation-State citizenship (...)
The citizenship of the Union doesn't grant at all to any resident of another member State the right of acquiring the Danish citizenship or any other right, duty, privilege or advantage that come from the the Danish Constitution and laws."
The future of the Citizenship of the Union will depend on the evolution of the public opinion of its members States between these two opposed views.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

Five million Union citizens without full political rights

There is a clear and broad understanding of a breach in the fundamental rights granted to Union citizens as a consequence of the exercise of the right to free movement, as recognized by the "Fourth Report on Citizenship of the Union" (1 May 2001 – 30 April 2004) - {SEC(2004)1280}
Recurrent petitions, parliamentary questions and public correspondence reveal the concerns of many Union citizens regarding a gap in electoral rights at the present level of Community law: Union citizens may still be deprived of important civic rights as a result of the exercise of the right to free movement, namely the right to participate in national or regional elections. The Member States do not grant electoral rights at national or regional elections to nationals of other Member States residing in their territory. Before enlargement, this situation concerned about five million Union citizens of voting age who resided in another Member State.

The need to strengthen the rights of Union citizens must also be assessed in the light of the results of Intergovernmental Conference that agreed on the Constitutional Treaty, Article III-13 of which corresponds to the existing Article 22 of the EC Treaty. In any case, the following issues can be raised as potential subjects for strengthening the rights of Union citizens:
– The Commission draws attention to complaints related to the lack of the right of non-national Union citizens to vote and to stand as a candidate in national or regional elections in the Member State of residence. However, decisions concerning possible measures to be adopted under Article 22(2) of the EC Treaty still require careful consideration.

Let's read it again.

At least five million Union citizens of voting age who reside in another Member State have become a sort of second-division citizens, only because they exercised the right of free movement, which was granted to them by the Union itself!!

European citizenship as defined by Maastricht

Every person holding a nationality of a Member State is a citizen of the Union. A citizenship of the Union was established by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. It is included in Part Two (Articles 17–22) of the EC Treaty. The EU citizenship complements national citizenship of the Member States and does not replace it. Citizens of the Union enjoy rights conferred by the Treaty and they are subject to duties imposed thereby.
The importance of citizenship of the Union lies in the fact that the citizens of the Union have genuine rights under Community law. The core rights conferred by citizenship under Part Two of the EC Treaty are:

  • freedom of movement and the right of residence within the territory of the Member States;
  • right to vote and stand as a candidate at elections to the European Parliament and at municipal elections in the Member State of residence;
  • right to diplomatic and consular protection;
  • right of petition to the European Parliament; and
    right to refer to the Ombudsman.

Nationality of the Member States
The citizenship of the Union does not replace the national citizenship, but a nationality of Member States is entirely a matter for the Member States concerned, as the Declaration on nationality of a Member State appended to the Treaty of Maastricht confirms. It is therefore for each Member State, having due regard to the Community law, to lay down the conditions for acquisition and loss of nationality. The European Union does not have any competencies in that regard.

Why a blog on this matter?

In order to start the discussion about the definition of an European Citizenship, there is the need of having a public agenda on this matter. The challange is that there is no urgence - and it will never be - for such a discussion from inside a national society. Because the whole point is about affirming and exending the political rights for individual persons which - by definition- are external to the national political arena and generally not organized in any form, this instance will be never raised from the inborn part of the society, that part of a national population who owns the full spectrum of political rights and has the power of setting the priorities for any new legislation. Therefore, such an agenda must be set by other means, the organization must come in other forms, the definition of a common cross-national identity must arise from the outside circle, making use - at least in the first stages of the process - mainly of non governative but equally pervasive channels. The blogsphere has all these requisites and can gather the critical-mass needed to contribute to a collective over-national conscience.

Citizens of Europe

Today is the day where my blog begins. The aim here is to start a public discussion regarding the need for the definition of a European Citizenship according to the spirit of Maastricht. This new citizenship is intended to allow citizens of European Union who have moved to another EU country to benefit from all political rights in their new country of residence without having to change their nationality - thus extending the limits of the traditional domain of a national citizenship.
A lot of material has been published on this matter. This blog will gather all relevant info and opinions for the affirmation of these new citizens, Citizens of Europe.