With the Emergence of a Notion of citizenship, has the European Union overreached itself

The long-term visions of United Europe have managed to survive despite the world witnessing resurgence in nationalism in the 20th century, (the atrocities of the Former Yugoslavia the perfect example.)

So much so that, a major development in the history of the EU has been made. The establishment of EU citizenship1 has been considered as a ‘turning point in the evolution in European integration’2. But there are those who see it’s threatening nature.

From both sides of the fence the following attempts to evaluate whether the EU has overreached itself in this respect.

The original form of EU citizenship was specifically for those who contributed economically via their labour to the economy of their host Memberstate. Freedom of Movement was thus limited to the ‘worker’3. However with the formal establishment of the EU citizenship, ‘every’ citizen of the union could ‘move and reside freely within the territory of the Memberstates’4. This was an obvious move to break out of the economic shell; transforming a previous provision into a ‘semi-political right’5.

It must be noted however that there are existing limitations on this new right6 meaning that anyone who becomes an economic burden on a host Memberstate cannot reside there. It would seem the EU has gone beyond it’s capabilities. Not only in the sense that it tried to move beyond the economic sphere by allowing all citizens to travel but also that it holds out the new notion of this right attached to citizenship which it is unable to provide in substance.

However, within the context of integration the EU may not have overreached itself. Taking account of the initial goals of the Union, that to achieve political integration through economic integration, citizenship is just a natural progression in-between these two stages. It’s a necessary tool by which the framework must be built; without it there are no foundations, no future for political integration.

Could it be that Citizenship is a dangerous gamble for the EU? The actual concept is bound to that of nation-state7. This can be taken to mean a politically organized. How can there be an EU citizenship when the EU isn’t a nation-state? For it to exist there must a political system or the makings of one. Citizenship also defines the bond between the individual and the state8, because there’s no state it follows that there’s no people of Europe.

Taking this into account logically one would ask why the EU has put forward such a concept, when it’s unworkable. The EU it seems is doing nothing less than masterminding it’s own failure. If citizenship is baseless then so are the attached rights, dissatisfaction follows, people feeling cheated won’t display loyalty and will look upon the EU with an ever untrusting eye.

On the otherhand it’s incomprehensible that the EU would dig such a big hole for itself. Maybe what they plan to achieve isn’t wholly outside the range of possibilities. Citizenship may have been established to bridge a gap between the economic and political EU, something resembling that of a state like political system. This is nothing new, but if citizenship is to help create a need, a demand for citizenship rights with some weight, then this need if strong enough may be answered. For these rights to have substance there will have to have to be the beginnings of an internal structure of political institutions and bodies, which the EU has been wanting to create from the very beginning.

To become a state like entity there are essential ingredients, and citizenship is there to ensure they come together. In this snapshot in time to many the EU seems to be much too ambitious, but considering it’s goal, in the long-term it may not seem so.

As mentioned before an EU citizenship cannot exist in theory. This is on two levels, one because the EU isn’t a state and two because there is already a national citizenship, replacing it in the foreseeable future would be impossible9 as the Memberstates wouldn’t allow it. The answer to both is ‘Dual Citizenship’10. As expressed in Article F(1)11 the EU aim to replace national citizenship but is simply wanting to add on it. the affect being achieved is that of America – where multi-identities are workable. According to Monar, dual citizenship isn’t only a possibility but a necessity for the EU12, it being the only route forward if progress is to be made at this stage of the integration process.

EU citizenship however is dependant upon the possession of memberstate nationality13. Thus, ultimately the power to determine who is an EU falls with memberstates. From this point of view there is nothing wrong with this as the memberstates aren’t passing over all their sovereignty. But it is within their jurisdiction to exclude who they want. Non-nationals are excluded and discriminated against even though they may have resided in a memberstate for years. It follows that each memberstate has varying nationality law14

Through this clear inequality in access, the EU has gone beyond the limits of unfairness. In so far as citizenship is uniting the people of Europe, it’s failing. One asks whether residence would have been a better criterion of citizenship15. But as has been pointed out an extension of citizenship would entail enormous repercussions for the development of political integration, which may not be readily accepted by the memberstates16.

Not accepting the obvious discrimination, one might say to guarantee any possibility of success the EU has to tread carefully. Once and if political integration is achieved, the EU may then see fit to correct discriminatory provisions, as then the repercussions may not be as damaging as they seem now. But this will not happen anytime soon – a state isn’t made overnight.

Political rights are central to the concept of citizenship and yet in the EU these are virtually non-existent. Voting rights do exist as shown by articles 8b and 8c17, but as pointed out by Weiler neither have been implemented fully as yet18, drawing the analysis that citizenship rights are just empty gestures.

Article 138a points to the importance of political parties in integration and expressing the will of the citizen. Yet it is displaced from Part two of the TEU. If the EU was serious about creating a citizenship and consequently attached rights there would be more substance and organization to them. The EU is taking citizenship beyond it’s real capacity and is producing legal rights that have no real political value, also there is no ‘intermediate structure’ as a typical political system would have19, so how can there be any political rights? EU citizenship is holding out a false consciousness of benefits the citizens will receive when in fact they really won’t.

But if this is so, then why would the EU profess to give something that it doesn’t have, something so valuable? As mentioned there’s no intermediate structure but there are political rights, it’s possible that the EU is laying down the outside pieces of the jigsaw (citizenship) first to know and not lose the framework they are working within – it’s what’s required to make it easier to fill in the central pieces later on.

This can be understood in relation to the reaction encountered if memberstates are bluntly asked to transfer further sovereignty to create a European political system.

To understand such a dynamic concept20 such as citizenship one has to see from the viewpoint of the EU as well as being critical from the outside.

‘Protection of fundamental rights should constitute the hard core of Union citizenship’21, but as it happens the treaties seem to be treating fundamental rights issues separately from citizenship issues22. Part two of the TEU23 make no express mention of such rights. But those it does haven’t yet been implemented, and are a repetition of pre-existing ideas24.

Article F(2) refers to respect for rights in the ECHR, not altogether clear in the substance of them and being a non-justiciable guarantee, makes it’s effectiveness doubtful. As it is rights are scattered throughout the treaties with no codification25.

There has been a proposal for a non-discrimination clause, but this also seems to have been significantly weakened in it’s potential effect26. One wonders whether any substantive benefits have truly been conferred upon the citizen through citizenship? It seem not.

The EU has embarrassed itself in exaggerating the importance of EU citizenship, and overreached it’s potential trying to deal with such a powerful concept, which it didn’t conceive it to be.

However form the EU point of view, piecemeal protection of rights is probably insurance if their political goals aren’t fulfilled. Maybe once something resembling a political system is taking shape then more substantive rights will be granted, after all a contract of citizenship between the state and citizen has benefits both ways.

The sole purpose of establishing EU citizenship was to provide something for individuals to identify with, some sort of structure that will inspire belonging and loyalty. However, we identify first and foremost with our nation27as it is the common homeland of it’s people, sharing a common history, culture and language. Therefore identifying with people of different cultures and history is difficult and very problematic.

One only has to look at the former Yugoslavia to see the dangers of differences can swell into strong nationalistic attitudes and behaviour. The EU could fall into what it initially tried to avoid – war. Maybe abit too speculative but the dangers of nationalism should never be underestimated as the EU is seems has done.

If this is the possible outcome then the EU has overreached it self more than ever before by risking everything within the EU.

Despite this it can be claimed that to fulfill the aims, citizenship is a necessity. Without the support of the people there is no political EU. Citizenship helps them feel a part of something together and EU citizenship is about accepting differences. Therefore by harmonizing the people the EU may not be seen as overreaching itself. Citizenship is an expression of multi-identities, one with the individuals own nation and the other on the EU level.

For the EU, citizenship is a necessity as not only is it the route by which it can achieve the loyalty of the people but also make progress for a Political EU – a supranational entity. Citizenship it seems was the only means by which the latter could be achieved so subtly, attaching little rights to the concept in the various areas, for example political, would slowly create a demand from critics and people that more rights should be conferred. The EU’s reply would be that to do so some more structure will be necessary – in the way of say new bodies for the running of a political system.

Through this process there is a possibility that the EU could achieve it’s goal. Any other way would be impossible especially as we know how the Memberstates feel. The EU would not be cheating the memberstates and it’s peoples but simply creating a need, which itself would have to answer.

As well as a necessity, citizenship is in a way an obstacle to the EU’s goals, because if loyalty isn’t inspired then there is no hope for these goals to be fulfilled.

We can only speculate whether the EU has overreached itself with the citizenship concept, as the outcome – what ever it may be is too ahead into the future.

It is my belief that, considering recent outbursts of nationalism, the EU has greatly overreached itself. Though, theoretically a political EU is possible, realistically it could not exist as there are too many barriers.

The EU could continue to be an economic union in the creation of a single market, yet this at the present stage of the integration process this seems very unlikely, as steps have already been taken.