CUPRINS nr. 125


Concepte europene

European Citizenship And Identity


The article presents the concept of European Citizenship, as it was defined on the Treaty on European Union, signed in Maastricht, in 1992. The conclusion is that, including the rights, the obligations, and the participation to the political life, the European citizenship aims to the self-representation and identity of the European Union, creating the framework for a deeper implication of the member states’ citizens in the process of European integration.

The Citizenship1 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. Just like the compulsory educational systems had a main performance in building up national identities, the role of schools and universities in fostering a sense of belonging, and European identity will be of the most importance.

European Union (Eu) Citizenship

Currently “EU Citizenship” is not quite equal in status to national citizenship (and certainly not outside the EU). Rather one holds the “nationality of a member state” and, as a result of the Maastricht Treaty, thereby becomes a “citizen of the Union”. This offers certain privileges within the EU: in many areas EU citizens have similar rights to native citizens in member states. Such rights granted to foreign EU citizens include the right of abode, the right to vote in local elections and the right to work in any position (including the civil service) except for very specific positions (defense...). The EU member states use a common passport design, burgundy colored with the name of the member state, national seal and the title “European Union” or equivalent.

The classical concept of Citizenship

We can define citizenship as a legal and political status which allows the citizen to acquire some rights (civil, political, social...) as an individual and some duties (taxes, military service, loyalty...) in relation to a political community, as well as the ability of intervening in the collective life of a state. The latter right arises from the democratic principle of sovereignty of people.

Citizens - of Spain, United Kingdom, France, Portugal, United States... - have a series of rights, granted by their constitutions, but also have obligations, with regard to their national community. In a democratic state, the citizen must fulfill those obligations since they were passed by the representatives they have voted in, using one of the main citizen's political rights, the suffrage2.

Citizenship is restricted to people who have that condition. People that live in a territory but lack the status of citizen are deprived of the rights and duties that citizenship involves. Every state has laws to regulate the way an individual can acquire its nationality, that is to say, the citizenship.

This concept of citizenship dates back to a historical period initiated with the great liberal revolutions in the late 18th century. It is a notion characterized by the pre-eminence of the state-nation as the political community that comprises the individuals. Citizenship is tantamount to nationality.

Challenges to the State-nation and the citizenship equivalent to nationality

From the classic ages (Greece, Rome) to the present the concept of citizenship has evolved. In the 21st century, we will witness citizenship quite different of a kind from todays.

Although the Nation-state continues to be the key element of the world political map, changes are taking place that portend an evident challenge to this kind of political organization. 

Two major transformations are placing in question the role of the contemporary State-nation and the concept of citizenship that it embraces:
• Firstly, globalization, that is to say, the fact that the central and strategic economic activities are integrated on a world scale through electronic webs of capitals, goods, and information exchange. A key element of this globalization is the development of the Internet and the information society. This globalization of markets is the decisive factor that has impelled the last step in the European integration, the Economic and Monetary Union. The States-nation are less and less able to cope with the challenges of globalization.
• Secondly, the existence of more multicultural societies that breaks up the theoretical homogeneity of States-nation. Regional or national diversity (Spain, Belgium, and United Kingdom) and multiculturalism and multiethnicity brought about by growing immigration are key aspects of the new European society.

European citizenship will rise from this new European society.

The road toward launching of the European Citizenship

The right of free movement of persons inside the Community was introduced in the constituent Treaty of the EEC, signed in Rome in 1957. This freedom did not appear bound to any citizenship concept but rather it was closely linked to the conduct of an economic activity. In consequence, the right of residence was accorded to workers and their families, linked to the right to exercise a labour activity in another member State of the EEC3.

Although in a meeting of the European Council, held in Paris in 1974, the necessity to grant special rights in the EEC to the citizens of the member States was put forward. It was only in 1976, however, when the Tindemans Report was issued, that for the first time, the object of proceeding beyond a common market and creating a community of citizens, was clearly proposed4.

This report, edited by the Belgian prime minister on request of the Summit of Paris 1974, had no success with the governments, though it had an important influence in later steps towards integration. In a chapter, titled Europe of the Citizens5, Tindemans proposed the enactment of different measures that made perceptible, by means of outward signs, the rise of a European awareness: unification of passports, the vanishing of border controls, the common use of the benefits of the Social Security systems, the accreditation of academic courses and degrees...

In 1976 a second step took place when elections to the European Parliament by universal suffrage were conducted. Although Parliament's competences were meager, for the first time, one of the key elements of citizenship, democratic participation, appeared. 

Later on, after the Fontainebleau European Council in 1984, a Committee of Europe of the Citizens, presided over by the Italian Euro MP Adonnino, was established. This committee approved a series of unambitious proposals leading to the constitution of a European citizenship.

More audacious was the Project of Treaty of European Union, passed by the European Parliament, in February of 1984, and presented by the euro MP Alterio Spinelli (Spinelli Project). 

In spite of its restraint, the Single European Act (1986) hardly included any of the Spinelli's project proposals, although it adopted, and that is fundamental, the objective of a political European Union. In this manner, a few years later, two Intergovernmental Conferences were convened to reform the Treaties. One of them focused on the Economic and Monetary Union, the other one, solely on the political Union.

A meeting of the European Council, which took place in Rome in October 1990, in the course of establishing the IGCs guidelines, introduced a notion of European Citizenship, as an essential element of the Treaties reform, and with some characteristics and similar rights to those that were later included in the Treaty of the European Union or Treaty of Maastricht.

It was the Spanish delegation that first presented to the IGCs, in October 1990, a text on the European citizenship. After diverse negotiation, and with the enthusiastic support of the European Parliament that passed two favourable resolutions in 1991, the Treaty of the European Union came finally to institutionalize European citizenship.

The extension of the rights

For many, the rights included in the citizenship statute are limited and affect to a reduced number of Europeans, so they are considered as irrelevant by most citizens.

The most significant is, with no doubt, free movement and residence of persons. Although there have been remarkable advances from the Treaty of Rome, where free movement was strictly bound to labour activity, there are still serious limitations that should be eliminated. Despite the different agreements reached, any country can re-establish controls on border whenever its security was considered to be threatened and residence freedom continues having different sort of restrictions6.

The other rights affect in a negligible way the daily life of European people: the right of appeal to the European Ombudsman only deals with matters under EU jurisdiction; the right of petition to the European Parliament already existed and has to do with a Parliament with very scarce competences; the right to vote and stand in local government and European Parliament elections in the country of residence affects to a minority of European, the right to have diplomatic and consular protection from the authorities of any other member State concerns solely the Europeans that visit a third country in which there are not embassies or consulates of its own state...

Following the opinion of the eurosceptic Ralf Dahrendorf, the European citizenship lays still midway between two conceptions of citizenship: what he denominates theoretical or soft citizenship, certain feeling of being part of a community, of having some certain common goals and values, and the practical or strong citizenship, real rights -vote, fair trial, expression, association...- that can be claimed and juridical institutions to protect the exercise of these rights. 

The great debate in the following years will be: do we make steps forward to strengthen the Citizenship of the Union statute, or do we keep it as a largely theoretical institution?

A step in the first direction has been the edition and proclamation in the Nice European Council of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

The emergence of a European identity

The concept of European identity is, at least, problematic. To some extent, a great part of our continent's inhabitants feel themselves as Europeans, but a majority feel more intensely their belonging to France, Portugal, Spain, or Catalonia, Scotland or Flanders. Identities are not easily separated and, often, different feelings of affinity -ethnic or racial group, gender, political ideas, cultural affinities...- are mingled.

A genuine European Union requires a European identity, but it does not exist. There is no linguistic or cultural homogeneity. A common identity cannot be constructed on neither Christianism, nor democracy, nor economical identity, or, of course, ethnic identity7.

A lot of scholars have been lately trying to get to the bottom of what means to be a European.

Samuel Huntington, a celebrated American academic, affirms that Europe finishes where Eastern Orthodox Christendom and Islam start. So, Greece, member State of the EU, is it not a European country? The Muslims that have been so long living any neighbourhood of London, Paris or Düsseldorf, are they not European?

From another point of view, a French scholar, Henry Mondrasse, has claimed that a common cultural European identity does exist and that it could be the base for a political Union. Should this identity be based on individualism, the idea of nation developed in the last centuries, a certain way of combining science and technology or a certain idea of democracy, according to this definition of European culture, which is the difference between an American or an Australian and a European? Could a Russian or a Bulgarian be considered as Europeans?

What I am intending to highlight is that a European identity will not arise from an impossible cultural uniformity; neither will be built against other civilizations. Islam is, especially after New York's World Trade Center massacre, the foremost candidate to be the enemy. The victory of this kind of tendencies would be a dramatic failure for the very idea of European integration.

One of the most suggestive theories in this field comes from a celebrated German thinker, Jurgen Habermas. According to the well know view of Habermas, in a liberal democracy, citizens should not be identified with a common cultural identity, but with some constitutional principles that fully guarantee their rights and freedoms. This proposal is very suggestive, because it comes from the best liberal and tolerant tradition of Europe, and escapes from and fights against ethnic nationalism, the great foe of peace and freedom in the early 21st century Europe.

1 Citizenship is membership in a political community (originally a city but now a state), and carries with it rights to political participation; a person having such membership is a citizen. It is largely coterminous with nationality, although it is possible to have a nationality without being a citizen (i.e. be legally subject to a state and entitled to its protection without having rights of political participation in it.
2 Bibere O. – The European Union between reality and fantasy, Bucharest, Ed. All, 1999; - Basic Documents of the European Union, Iasi, Ed. Polirom, 1999 ; - European Union Treaty. The Maastricht Treaty on European Union, Bucharest, Ed. Lucretius, 1997.
3 Defarges Moreau PhilippeEuropean Institutions, Ed. Amarcod, Timisoara, 2002.
4 Bradescu Faust - United Europe, Ed. Majadahonda, Bucharest, 2000.
5 Ferréol Gilles, - European Union Dictionary, Ed. Polirom, Iasi, 2001.
6 Leonard DickEuropean Union Guide, Ed. Teora, Bucharest, 2001.
7 Guillaume Courty; Guillaume DevinEuropean Construction, Ed. C.N.I. “Coresi” SA, Bucharest.

- researcher, The Romanian Institute of International Studies.




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