Citizenship and the European Union

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Citizenship and the European Union

1. Introduction

The idea and practice of European citizenship is relevant in two main ways

to the recent controversy in Germany over plans by the governing Social-

Democratic Party to reform citizenship law. One of these is that the

concepts of citizenship and nationality continue to be thought of as

synonymous in Germany but are now relatively distinct, both linguistically

and politically, in several other national regimes and in the European Union

(EU). Secondly, on the one hand, new German provisions will be more

similar than before to the nationality laws of other member states by

introducing a right [as opposed to a discretionary possibility] to citizenship

through residence and legal naturalization, as well as ancestry. But, on the

other, the decision on 16 March 1999 to abandon the possibility of dualcitizenship

[or, in my language, nationality] means that, in this respect, the

German approach to citizenship now runs counter to suggestions made by

some specialists about the EU as a site of democratic practice.

This paper will open with a brief discussion of the distinctiveness of

citizenship and nationality. This is necessary so that one can understand the

following section outlining EU provisions. In conclusion, this paper will

discuss some of the arguments about the prospects for EU citizenship, with

special reference to loosening the overlap between the legal label of

national identity and the normative practice of citizenship.

Elizabeth Meehan


2. Citizenship and Nationality

As I have suggested elsewhere1, there are good grounds for treating the

overlap of citizenship and nationality as a matter of historical contingency

and not as an analytically necessary connection. In short, nationality is a

legal identity from which no rights need arise, though obligations might--

as is obvious when nationals are called 'subjects'. Conversely, citizenship

is a practice, or a form of belonging, resting on a set of legal, social and

participatory entitlements which may be conferred, and sometimes are,

irrespective of nationality--or denied, as in the case of women and some

religious and ethnic minorities, regardless of nationality.

While borders had been porous in the Middle and Late-Middle Ages and

migration normal, the strategic interests of new states lay in impregnability

and control of persons with or without leave to cross frontiers. Nationality

was an obvious criterion and proof of nationality a simple method of

verification. The process of modernization in the new states went hand in

hand with the construction of the nation. This served external and internal

purposes. It created a sense of the 'Otherness' of those who were a threat to

the strategic interests of political elites. And it fostered the loyalty or

allegiance that induced willingness to be taxed to fund the defense of the

state and to be enlisted into military service. Since 1945, allegiance is

relevant less to military purposes than to the legitimacy of redistribution

and the funding of welfare systems.2

The construction of the nation was promoted through the dismantling of

feudal bonds and their replacement by a gradual extension of legal and

political rights. So complete became the overlap between national identity

and citizenship status that, in many political systems, even those with

separate words, 'citizenship' and 'nationality' became interchangeable.

And, according to Raymond Aron, it was a contradiction in terms to see

1 Meehan Elizabeth, Citizenship in the European Union, London: Sage 1993;

Meehan, "European Integration and Citizens´ Rights: A Comparative Perspective",

Publius. The Journal of Federalism 26 (4) Fall 1996.

2 Miller, David, "In Defence of Nationality", Journal of Applied Philosophy 10, 1993,


Citizenship and the European Union


citizenship rights as capable of being guaranteed by anything other than the

state, more particularly the nation-state, and certainly not by a regime--the

EU--that was not a state at all.3

But, using 'citizenship' as a synonym for 'nationality' can result in peculiar

distortions of meaning. In late 19th century America, the Supreme Court

ruled that a woman was, indeed, an American citizen but that being a

citizen did not necessarily carry the right to vote. This empties the classical

conception of 'citizen' of part of its core meaning and the ruling makes

conceptual sense only if we substitute 'national' for 'citizen'. In other

systems, both terms are employed in legislation but as though 'nationality

and citizenship' were all one word in which the first and last components

were interchangeable. For example, except for one Article of the 1922

Constitution, it was not until 1962 that Irish official documents began to be

clear that there was a difference between citizenship as nationality and

citizenship as the capacity to exercise rights. The current British passport

still says 'Nationality: British citizen'.

However, from a longer historical perspective, we can see that citizenship

is not the same as nationality but is about enabling people to participate in

creating, maintaining and enjoying the good society, whether the people

belonging to a society inhabit a citadel, a city-state, a locality, an empire,

the world--and since John Stuart Mill and especially in Germany, the

work-place. In the young United States of America, a century before the

ruling just mentioned, and at the time of the making of the Constitution,

there was no sense of an overarching American national identity and this

did not evolve for a very long time. But there were citizenship rights, even

if undemocratic by today's standards, and the best way of protecting them

was a passionate bone of contention between The Federalists and the Anti-

Federalists. More recently, a survey of eleven European countries shows no

wholly systematic pattern of attaching nationality restrictions to legal and

3 Aron, Raymond, "Is Multinational Citizenship Possible?", Social Research 41 (4),

1974, pp. 638 -56.

Elizabeth Meehan


social entitlements and rights to participate in politics.4 For example, the

British are aliens under Irish law but British nationals resident in Ireland

now have most of the rights of citizenship. The Irish are neither alien nor

British under United Kingdom (UK) law but, like resident Commonwealth

nationals, have always been able to exercise all the rights of citizenship. In

the EU, rules about who a state's nationals are and how that nationality

may be acquired or lost remain matters for national decision-making. For

those who have been defined as nationals of member states, EU citizenship

is about participation and the enjoyment of 'the good society' in the Union

as a whole. As noted in conclusion, the European 'good society' is

criticized as libertarian--offering private rights to individuals. But, it may

be worth noting that the preambles to its directives on social policy often

echo, if dimly, the classical conception of the 'good society' as a collective

moral order of justice and conviviality.

3. EU Citizenship

Jacques Santer described the Treaty of Amsterdam as 'set[ting] out the rules

of the game Governments will have to observe' and 'establish[ing] rights for

all the citizens'5. Union citizenship, however, came into being formally in

Article 8 of the Maastricht Treaty [agreed in 1991, operational from

November 1993]. As a personal status, it was confirmed in the Amsterdam

Treaty which also consolidates and extends citizens' and human rights--at

least potentially.

3.1 Rights Prior to Amsterdam

The Maastricht Treaty went some way to acknowledging criticism that the

EU did not recognize people as citizens because they were human beings but

only as workers or providers of services who needed not to lose rights when

4 Gardner, J.P.(ed.), Citizenship: The White Paper. London: The Institute for

Citizenship 1997.

5 European Commission, A New Treaty for Europe. Citizens´ Guide. Luxembourg

1996, p.2.

Citizenship and the European Union


moving. Under that Treaty, a citizen of the Union is anyone, worker or not,

who is a national of a member state. The Treaty took another step towards a

more universalistic justification for citizenship by referring to the relevance

to the EU of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental

Freedoms (ECHR). It incorporated rights to information and redress within

the common institutions, and required member states to agree upon

arrangements for certain transnational political rights--the right of a national

of any member state to be protected by the diplomatic and consular services

of another state when outside the Union and the rights to vote and stand for

office in municipal and European elections [not General Elections] wherever

they reside within the union. Though citizenship is often considered an

individualistic concept, it is notable that the Maastricht Treaty

'constitutionalized' a channel for people collectively to influence common

policies through the Committee of the Regions. Though this Committee is

sometimes judged to be a piece of window dressing, the development of

regions in Europe or, at least, 'multi-level governance' has been significant to

the strengthening of demands in parts of the UK for greater 'selfdetermination'.

I shall return to this in conclusion.

Before the notion of citizen acquired a formal political status in the

Maastricht Treaty, elements of common citizenship were already arising from

the 1957 Treaty of Rome; that is, if we accept the view of its best known

modern exponent, T. H. Marshall, that citizenship is only fully realized

through an interlocking triad of civil, political and social rights.

The goal of freedom of movement [Article 118 of the Treaty of Rome] is the

foundation for some equivalents of traditional civil rights, since elucidated in

the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice (ECJ); for example,

relating to residence, the administration of justice and ownership of

immovable property--for economically active migrants within the

Community. Almost from the outset, the ECJ established that the Treaty of

Rome gave a common legal right to individual nationals, migrant or not. This

was their right to expect, and duty to ensure, that states, including their own,

complied with Community law (van Gend en Loos v. Nederlandse

Administratie der Belastingen, Case No 26/62, [1962] ECR 1).

Elizabeth Meehan


European social rights are not directly redistributive. Rather, the Community

regulates entitlements [mainly for workers] in member states through legal

principles, the most important of which is non-discrimination. The principle

of freedom of movement gave rise to two Regulations outlawing nationalitybased

discrimination against migrant workers' access to insurance-based

social benefits [revised as Regulation 1408/71] and against them and their

families in other social assistance [revised as Regulation 1612/68]. Sex-based

discrimination was made unlawful in Article 119 of the Treaty of Rome

which required equal pay for men and women doing the same work. Between

1975 and the mid-1980s, five Directives followed which: widened the scope

of equal pay; extended the right of equality into other conditions of

employment; applied the principle to statutory and occupational social

security schemes; and gave comparable entitlements to self-employed

women. Another Directive, passed in 1992 under the Health and Safety

Framework, protects pregnant women workers and guarantees levels of

maternity pay and leave. Three others in the 1990s, arising from agreements

concluded through 'social dialogue', cover parental leave and leave for

family reasons, the burden of proof in cases of discrimination, and part-time


Rights not based on the non-discrimination principle include: Directives in

the 1980s on consultation over redundancy plans and protection of

employment conditions when business is transferred to another undertaking;

and others, stemming from the Single European Act of 1987, requiring

consultation and protection in situations of risk and hazard at work. The

latter, and others relating to the young and elderly, were introduced through

the 1989 Community Charter of Fundamental Social Rights of Workers.

Under the auspices of Social Dialogue and the Maastricht Treaty, further

steps have been, or are being, taken with respect to working conditions [eg,

working hours, part-time contracts] and workers' rights of consultation in

transnational companies, though the latter fall short of the high standards set

Citizenship and the European Union


by the German co-determination model6. These areas are also covered by the

Amsterdam Treaty.

3.2 The Treaty of Amsterdam

The Treaty of Amsterdam does little to enhance transnational or

supranational political rights. But is does contain a number of provisions

relating to human rights and it reflects a growing realization amongst

governments, particularly those recently holding the EU presidency, that the

policy concerns of citizens need to be more systematically addressed.

Prior to the Amsterdam Treaty, there was discussion of whether the EU itself

would subscribe to the ECHR. No agreement on this could be found and a

compromise worked out by the Irish Presidency in 1996 found its way into

the final draft.7 The Treaty, which was agreed upon in June 1997, amends the

general principles of the Union, laid down in Maastricht, to focus upon

'liberty, democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and

the rule of law' (Amended Article F of Maastricht). The amended Article

affirms that rights specified in the European Convention will be respected as

principles of Community law. A new paragraph in the Preamble adds

confirmation of respect for the social rights of the 1961 European Social

Charter [an addendum to the Convention] and the Community's own 1989

Charter.8 A new Article 6a amends the Treaty of Rome to enable the EU to

take action, if it wishes, 'to combat discrimination based on sex, racial or

ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.'9

In this connection, two changes in the UK are noteworthy as an indication of

a greater willingness to play a more central role in European integration.

Soon after winning the 1997 General Election, the new Labour Government

announced that it would end the 'opt-out' from further EU social

6 Elizabeth Meehan, Ireland´s Choice to Prioritize Free Movement with the United

Kingdom over Free Movement in the European Union, Blue Paper, The Policy

Institute, Trinity College Dublin (forthcoming).

7 Insitute of European Affairs, IGC Updates, Nos 1-9, esp. no. 9 of 24.6.97, Institute

of European Affairs, Dublin 1997.

8 European Commission 1996, p.9.

9 Ibid, p. 9.

Elizabeth Meehan


developments that the previous government had secured in the Maastricht

Treaty, thus enabling social policy to be brought into the main body of the

Amsterdam Treaty. Secondly, the government has introduced legislation to

incorporate the ECHR into domestic law--welcomed as a 'step in the right

direction', though also criticized for its limitations.10

The concrete provisions of the Amsterdam Treaty designed to buttress the

principles noted above do not extend Maastricht's primary political rights to

General Elections. But the Treaty does introduce new legal and secondary

political rights which could, depending on implementation, become


New legal and political protection includes: the entitlement of individuals to

take EU institutions to the ECJ over any action which they think breaches

their rights and new Articles [Fa in the Maastricht Treaty and 236 in the

Rome Treaty] which enable the European Council to deal with a member

state in 'serious and persistent breach' of the general principles of rights,

including suspending its voting rights.

The Amsterdam Treaty also covers the ability of citizens to influence or

participate in Union policy. For example, a Protocol on subsidiarity,11 while

mostly about the respective responsibilities of states and common institutions

stresses the need for consultation and a new Article adds openness to the need

for decisions to be taken as closely as possible to the citizen.12 Rights of

access to the documents of the Commission, Council and Parliament are reaffirmed13

and the Council is obliged to make public the record of voting on

legislation.14 Communication with citizens should be in their own language

10 Aziz, Adrienne, "Human Rights: Home at last but still found wanting", in: AUT

Bulletin, No. 211, January 1999.

11 European Commission, 1996, Chapter 9.

12 Duff, Andrew (ed.), The Treaty of Amsterdam: Text and Commentary. London: The

Federal Trust and Sweet and Maxwell 1997, p.100-109.

13 European Commission 1996, p. 94.

14 Ibid, p. 7.

Citizenship and the European Union


[new Article 8d, Maastricht].15 Individuals are protected against the misuse of

personal data [new Article 213b in the Treaty of Rome].

The Treaty aims to improve the capacities of peoples' elected representatives

to act on their behalf through more efficient arrangements for scrutiny of EU

proposals by national parliaments (ibid, Chapter 19) and by the extension,

and simplification, of the European Parliament's co-decision-making powers

vis a vis the Council of Ministers (ibid, Chapter 14). There are additional

obligations on the European Parliament to consult the Economic and Social

Committee and the Committee of the Regions (ibid, Chapter 18).

The civil right of freedom of movement is consolidated by the introduction of

a new Title III (a) into the Treaty of Rome. This lifts controls on persons

crossing borders between member states; aims to establish, over the next five

years, common standards in respect to entry at external borders, visas,

immigration and free movement for lawful residents who are nationals of

third countries, refugees and asylum-seekers; and it deals with judicial cooperation

over civil matters. In effect, this will bring the Schengen acquis and

much of the subject matter of the intergovernmental third pillar of Maastricht

[now left with police and judicial co-operation over criminal matters] into the

ambit of common policy initiation, with some role for the European Court of

Justice.16 Protocols allow derogations for Denmark, the UK and Ireland. All

three may participate in proposed initiatives if they are seen as consistent

with interests. The Danish position does not reflect opposition to the lifting of

checks but arises from its insistence that 'flanking' measures dealing with

immigration and co-operation should remain intergovernmental and be

decided upon, finally, in national parliaments. The UK does resist the lifting

of checks. Again, however, the outcome reflects something of a reorientation

towards the EU. The previous government would have vetoed 'the

communitarization of Schengen' but the new one took the view that it should

not stand in the way of what other states wanted, on the condition that it

could be exempt. The Irish negotiated similar exemptions in order to preserve

15 European Commission 1996, p.76.

16 Government of Ireland, Treaty of Amsterdam White Paper, Pn 4931, Dublin: The

Stationary Office 1998, pp. 42-47, 54-67.

Elizabeth Meehan


the Common Travel Area between it and the UK but made its distinctive

position clear in the wording of the Protocols.17

Despite controversy prior to agreement over [un]employment and poverty,

the Amsterdam Treaty extends its scope for action in the socio-economic

sphere into two new chapters. One on employment does not intend to expand

citizens' rights but aims to coordinate national policies, under EU guidance

and monitoring, so as to achieve 'a high level of employment' and 'a skilled,

trained and adaptable workforce'.18 Rights at work, excluding pay and

industrial disputes but including consultation over proposals with the 'social

partners', are part of the subject of the chapter on social policy. This promises

further directives to improve consultation, to reduce exclusion from the

labour market [and, therefore, one source of poverty] and to make sex

equality more real. In response to an unfavorable ruling on positive action in

the ECJ (Kalanke v. Freie Hansestadt Bremen, ECJ [1995] Case C-450/93),

the chapter explicitly authorizes measures 'to make it easier for the

underrepresented sex to pursue a vocational activity or to prevent or

compensate for disadvantages in professional careers'. Action is promised--

though mostly subject unanimous voting--on social security, conditions

when contracts are terminated, worker participation in company policy,

employment conditions for 'third country' nationals, and job creation.

Other conditions which affect the lives of citizens are also covered. Proposed

actions include: harmonized and national measures to reduce environmental

risks in general and at work, including impact assessments of all policies; the

overcoming of major health scourges and attention to the health implications

of all other policies; and consumer protection.

4. Assessments of EU Citizenship and its Prospects

Assessments of EU citizenship and its prospects are contradictory, possibly

being determined by divergent general ideological and epistemological

17 Meehan, Elizabeth, Ireland´s Choice, ibid.

18 Duff, Andrew, The Treaty of Amsterdam: Text and Commentary, London: Federal

Trust and Sweet and Maxwell 1997, pp. 59-65.

Citizenship and the European Union


outlooks. Sometimes, they seem guided by whether the commentator favors

or opposes European integration (Meehan, 1996). Sometimes, they seem to

depend on whether the analyst is a positivist who examines only what exists

concretely and compares its slightness to national provisions--but

overlooking the contrast between decades and centuries of evolution in the

EU and national systems respectively (Meehan, 1993). Conversely, other

analysts suggest that what is important is not the size but the dynamics of

change; that is, the fact that established norms have been breached at all

opens the possibility, though not the inevitability, of new paradigms.

The oldest criticism of EU citizenship starts from the limitations of the Treaty

of Rome as a basis for rights. These being restricted to the freedom of

movement of goods, capital, labor and services mean that European rights

were restricted to the 'citizen-as-worker' instead of reflecting the normative

principle that people are citizens because they are human beings. This makes

it particularly defective for women and all those not in regular, conventional

employment. Also, although ECJ jurisprudence tended to expand the scope of

rights and to limit anomalies within and across states, at least until the 1980s,

the legal instruments and enforcement procedures can make it difficult to

realize rights that are, in practice, common across the Community. It is also

argued that the evolution of European citizenship replicates in a larger arena

the physical and social exclusion of people without the right nationality.

['Third country' migrants within the Community, however, do have some

protection under the original Treaty of Rome, if they are members of a

migrant EU family or as a result of agreements between the Community and

third countries.]

Concerns about the narrowness of rights began to be acknowledged in the

mid-1970s, grew with the momentum of discussion of an 'ever closer union'

in the 1980s, and were reflected in the Maastricht Treaty. Though there are

positive assessments of Maastricht and prior developments, the 1991 Treaty

has been criticized for not going far enough.

All critics note that the status and, hence, rights of EU citizens continue to

rest upon nationality of a member state and that this remains a prerogative of

member state governments--though recently, the UK government was taken

Elizabeth Meehan


to task for denying the right to vote in European elections to Gibraltarians

[British Protected Persons, until full nationality was restored to colonial

citizens earlier this year]. They also note the exclusion of General Elections

and potential derogations from provisions for municipal and European

elections. These are possible where there are specific problems, especially

questions of national identities, as in Luxembourg where the proportion of

residents from other member states is larger than elsewhere.19 O'Leary20

argues that: the pre-existing direct link [van Gend en Loos--see above]

between individuals and the centre is slight, a view reinforced by a German

ruling about the 1991 Treaty [Manfred Brunner and others v. The European

Union Treaty , Cases 2 BvR 2134/92 and 2159/92 [1994] 1 CMLR 57];21 the

new voting rights are little more than reciprocal arrangements which could

exist, and sometimes do, irrespective of union; and that it will be difficult in

practice to use the right to diplomatic and consular protection by other

member states. Curtin and Meijers22 identify hypocrisy on the part of member

state governments, except Denmark and the Netherlands, in their ostensible

intention to enhance rights to information. Member states' restrictive

applications of these measures to information about border policies reinforce

at a European level the 'closure' effects of citizenship on people from

outside.23 In the social field, the Commission's capacity to expand a

regulatory regime of rights is restricted to what it may opportunistically

19 Closa, Carlos, "Citizenship of the Union and Nationality of Member States", in

Common Market Law Review, no. 32, 1995, pp.487-518.

20 O´Leary, Siofra, "The Relationship between Community Citizenship and the

Fundamental Rights in Community Law", in: Common Market Law Review, no.

32, 1995, pp.519-544.

21 See also Harmsen, Robert, Integration as Adaption: National Courts and the Politics of

Community Law, Paper presented at the Annual Conference of Political Studies

Association of Ireland 1994.

22 Curtin, Deirdre; Meijers, Herman, "The Principle of Open Government in Schengen

and the EU: Democratice Retrogression", in: Common Market Law Review no. 32

1995, pp. 391- 442.

23 See also Kostakopoulou, Dora, "Is there an Alternative for Schengenland ?", in

Political Studies, no. 46 (4), 1998, pp.886-902.

Citizenship and the European Union


introduce in a context of a reluctant Council of Ministers.24 Critics of

Maastricht also stress the limitations of local partnership, regional

subsidiarity and the status, powers and budget of the Committee of the

Regions. Such criticisms would need to be met if the Amsterdam Treaty is,

indeed, to live up to its promise outlined by Jacques Santer.

So far there has been a cautious welcome for the Amsterdam Treaty. Positive

views (eg, Oreja, 18.6.97; IEA, 24.6.97) have been expressed about: the

adoption of strong normative principles of rights; the new basis for

combatting more forms of discrimination; the procedures for dealing with

infringements of rights; the inclusion of the Employment Chapter; the

references to reducing exclusion; and the proposal to set standards for 'third

country' nationals at work and in free movement. The Treaty's references to

national and Union representative bodies goes a little way towards

Chryssochoou's insistence that 'democratic deficits' need to be addressed on

both planes if the experience of citizenship is to be realized in full.25 On the

other hand, the Commission itself reflects some of the concerns of voluntary

organisations by regretting the limitations of social policy. It also notes that

'the institutional system is not yet entirely equal to the challenges' and regrets

the opaqueness of the Treaty's text (Oreja, 18.6.97). Moreover, 'under many

... headings, ... the provisions may be criticized as being general rather than

specific and aspirational rather than tangible' (Institute of European Affairs,


But, as a foil to criticisms of the limitations of Maastricht, there is an

alternative assessment of EU developments which can be applied equally to

Amsterdam. For example, Weiner argues that citizenship, including 'access'

and 'belonging' as well as rights, has never been static or uniform. She

identifies in the history of integration confluences of policy imperatives and

24 Mazey, Sonia, "The Development of EU Policies: Bureaucratic Expansion on

Behalf of Women ?", in Public Administration no. 73 (4) 1996, pp.591-609.

25 Chryssochoou, Dimitris, "Democratic Theory and European Integration: the

Challenge of Conceptual Innovation", in Smith, Hazel (ed.), New Thinking in

Politics and International Relations, Canterbury 1996, pp. 20-33.

Elizabeth Meehan


the interests of key political actors which have created breaches in nationstate

experiences of citizenship and opportunities for new paradigms and


In her account, the regulation of social rights and relations between

Community institutions and the 'social', local and regional 'partners' [predating

Maastricht] are part of 'access' and 'belonging'. The period of

acceleration towards union is, in Weiner's account, a time of discernible

movement in the paradigm of citizenship, containing the seeds of new

practice in the activation of rights. In particular, markets and migration make

'place', as well as nationality, the conceptual and practical pre-condition for

triggering legal, political and social entitlements. This could become

significant not only for nationals of member states but also for lawfully

resident 'third country' migrants, as seems to be beginning in Amsterdam.

Even if early reactions to the Amsterdam Treaty are guarded, the movement

reflected in it seems to vindicate O'Keefe's view that '[t]he importance of the

TEU [Maastricht] citizenship provisions lies not in their content but rather in

the promise they hold out for the future. The concept is a dynamic one,

capable of being added to or strengthened but not diminished'.27 The same

can be said, in turn, about Amsterdam. Moreover, the EU's ability to sustain

its dual claim of being 'for its citizens' while also 'respect[ing] the national

identities of its Member States' depends upon such dynamism.28

All stories of rights, however, depend on what people make of them. If they

are to result in real redistribution of power or influence, much depends on the

ability of civil society 'to seize the day'. Closa sees more potential, in

principle, in supranational than national arenas for democratic citizenship. In

practice, he suggests however, that European civil society may be too fragile

to transform EU citizenship into an arena for democratic self-determination

26 Weiner, Antje, Building Institutions: The Developing Practice of European

Citizenship, Ottawa: PhD Thesis, Carleton University 1995.

27 Chryssochoou, p. 30.

28 European Commission, 1997, p.5.

Citizenship and the European Union


from what he calls an enhanced set of private rights to make the most of new

market opportunities [or be sheltered a little from its threats].29

His argument rests on a critique of the case that a shared national identity is a

pre-condition for citizenship. For, by insisting that citizenship can be built

only on such bonds, such theories propose that a democratic practice be based

on a commonality that was formed under pre-democratic conditions. In

contrast, a site of democratic citizenship is one in which people live together

under a set of principled bonds, such as those identified by Robert Dahl as

voting equality, effective participation, enlightened understanding, control of

agendas and inclusiveness. In drawing this contrast, Closa suggests that

supranational citizenship is less vulnerable than national citizenship to

charges of exclusion and discrimination because, being unable to draw on

comparable non-principled bonds, its success must depend on democratic and

human rights norms.

Dahl, of course, is a citizen of that country which I mentioned earlier where

democratic norms and ties [albeit defective] preceded national bonding. In

contrast, Britishness was forged by elites, prior to democracy, to make bonds

between peoples who had been enemies of one another. It worked for some

centuries, in the context of different sub-state national identities, as principled

bonds were grafted on to the pre-democratic unifications. But the fragility of

the origins is re-emerging and there are claims, at least in Scotland, and to

some extent, Wales, which support Closa's case; that is, that, from a

democratic basis, a new union of principled norms can be negotiated at the

supranational level--the EU.

The idea that a multi-state supranational union may be preferable to union

with a single neighbour arises from experience among the component peoples

of the UK in trying to make what Closa calls their private EU rights have

public consequences. That is, people--not only nationalists but also

29 Closa, Carlos, "European Citizenship, Mulitculturalism, and the State", in Ulrich

Preuss/Ferran Requejo (eds.), European Citizenship, Multiculturalism, and the

State, Baden-Baden: Nomos-Verl.-Ges. 1998; Closa, "Supranational Citizenship

and Democracy: Normative and empirical Dimensions", in: M. Torre (ed.),

European Citizenship: An International Challenge, Kluver Law International 1998.

Elizabeth Meehan


advocates for their regions--whose material interests are enhanced by

learning to use EU partnership opportunities are trying to redefine their

relationship to the domestic state in a European context, to bring about new

forms of mobilization and interaction, and to influence agendas. But, again in

line with Closa's theoretical case, unification into the British state left civil

society institutions intact, especially in Scotland and Northern Ireland and,

hence, in a position to try either to improve the principled bonds of the

British state or to negotiate new ones in a different arena.

Closa is guarded about whether there is a strong enough civil society in the

EU to transcend the defects of national citizenship in order to bring about the

benefits of a regime based on principled bonds--without a willingness on the

part of states themselves to agree to stop trying to maintain the impression

that anxieties about national identities are well attended to in EU provisions.

The changes which he suggests are necessary and include the avoidance of

derogations and exemptions which 'offer shelter to communitarian

understandings of the relationship between individuals and the state

premissed on nationality'; 'the full constitutionalization of a European

political status'; greater opportunities for direct citizenship participation in

EU affairs; stronger commonality and reciprocity of rights in different

member states; and willingness by states to respond to 'spill-over' pressures

from EU citizenship status on to varying nationality laws, including greater

willingness to acknowledge dual or multi-nationality.30 Something of the last

is beginning to happen. Some 'spill-over' can be seen in Germany's intention

to proceed with allowing citizenship through naturalization as well as

ancestry, if not in its abandonment of making dual-citizenship legal. The ECJ

is playing a role. The UK and Gibraltarians was mentioned above. Another

case was about a person with dual-nationality--of a member state and a third

country. The ECJ rejected another member state's claim to be free to

recognise only the third country dimension and, hence, to deny rights.

If Closa is right about the weakness of European civil society, as a whole, in

combatting a privatized, liberal or libertarian conception of citizenship, then

30 Closa, Carlos, ibid.

Citizenship and the European Union


enlargement may reinforce the challenge. The prospective member states,

while having to subscribe to principles of liberty, democracy and human

rights as a condition of entry are not well placed to do so in practice--

emerging as they are from totalitarianism which suppressed civil society or

bent it to the will of the state. At a conference during the 1998 UK

presidency, harrowing tales were told of the vulnerability of emergent civil

society associations in the Balkans and of discrimination against minorities in

east and east-central Europe. With or without minority problems, the concept

of liberty--perhaps necessitated by dire economic conditions--is, even more

libertarian than that which Closa sees in the EU. It is the negative one of

'freedom from' restraint--not the 'freedom to' which is implicit in Christian-

and social-democracy and still has some place in the link in the EU model

between social inclusion and economic progress. The point to be drawn here

is not about the addition of more nationalities, either per se or in their further

reduction of the overlap between nationality and citizenship. It is that

growing mismatches amongst sets of principled bonds, not a more complex

collection of pre-democratic identifications, may inhibit the transformation of

EU citizenship along the lines aspired to by Closa.

Elizabeth Meehan



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