Magazine article World Affairs

Citizenship and European Integration

Magazine article World Affairs

Citizenship and European Integration

Article excerpt

During the time of the intergovernment conferences leading up to the 1997 European summit in Amsterdam, the concept of citizenship became a focal point in the debate about democracy in the European Union (EU). Legally and politically, citizenship characterizes the relationship between an individual and a state, as defined by the law of that state, with corresponding duties and rights. The struggle over the freedom, rights, and privileges derived from citizenship status has shaped much of the historical development within European states. Precisely how the differing conceptions of citizenship in these various nation states can be transferred to the supranational body of the European Union is still a contested issue. On the one hand, the ongoing integration process calls for an inclusion of political rights in the emerging European Union. This would require the development of citizenship rights on the European level.

On the other hand, citizenship is rooted in the history of individual nation states. In fact, belonging to a particular nation state was historically an essential element of the notion of citizenship. Under the current legal framework, nationality in a member state is the precondition for exercising political rights in the realm of Union citizenship. With the signing of the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, European integration reached a new level. The introduction of a European citizenship in the treaty was one of the most remarkable steps in the restructuring of relations between member states and the emerging polity of the European Union. Yet given the far-reaching provisions for completing the internal market, such as introducing a common currency by the end of the century, market integration seems to be proceeding at a faster pace than political integration. Will the EU succeed in creating a European citizenship, which is equivalent in scope to the dramatic restructuring of the internal market? Are traditional concepts of citizenship transferable to the polity of the EU, or does the political process require new conceptions of citizenship?

The political significance of reconceptualizing citizenship in the current context of European integration has several dimensions. First, it is important to note that European citizenship is not based on European identity in the same way that national citizenship is rooted in the notion of a shared identity, commonly referred to as nationality. As a result, the concept of belonging, with its inclusive and exclusive mechanisms, has once again become contested on the European level. Who is a European citizen within the Union? What exactly defines belonging in the Union, given the lack of a strong European identity? Second, the scope and the substance of political rights derived from the concept of citizenship are not yet clearly defined. EU citizenship, for example, presently includes a guarantee of voting rights within the EU, but only at the communal level. Yet even this limited granting of rights demonstrates that state sovereignty is being restructured and hence diminished, as substantial fights are transferred to the European level. The scope of this transfer is still contested. How will the process of harmonizing national policies and expanding European fights change the sovereignty of nation states? Are European citizenship rights supplementing or are they replacing national fights? Third, in the realm of political participation the EU offers new and uncharted fields for citizens to engage in politics. Yet political participation is rather low compared to national politics. By creating a European citizenship encompassing a full array of democratic fights, political participation could be enhanced in the same way that the process of enfranchisement in the nation state has encouraged political activity.

While the European summit in Amsterdam, with its mandate to revise the Treaty of Maastricht, did not address the practice of citizenship as such, related issues such as the freedom of movement, freedom of information, social rights, and the role of the parliament were on the agenda. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.