The Maastricht Treaty was created with the aim of replacing the European Community with the European Union, i.e. a supranational institution that was not purely economic, but aimed at real integration between the peoples of the continent. The introduction of a European citizenship, which has been recognised for all citizens of the member States since 1 November 1993, was part of this vision. Let’s try to understand better what it means to be European citizens.
WHAT IS EUROPEAN CITIZENSHIP?
EU citizenship is a set of rights and duties which concern all citizens within a given community and which guarantee their equality.
Based on the treaties of the European Union, European citizenship joins national citizenship without replacing it and gives all citizens of the Member States additional rights, different from those they have as citizens of a single state.
Here are some rights, rather than duties, of European citizens:
The free movement of citizens of the European Union
First of all, citizens of the Union have the right of freedom of movement within the Member States, enjoying the possibility of living in any of them.
Although more than a third of European workers would be willing to work in another Member State, one in five people believe that there are still too many obstacles to do so, from problems with the languages to cross-border commuting.
The sense of belonging to the European Community
In 2013, a series of events, conferences and seminars were organised across the European Union, at European, national, regional and local level. In this occasion, the Commission conducted a public consultation to detect the problems encountered by citizens in exercising their rights related to European citizenship. From this consultation it became clear that citizens want to be able to exploit their rights as citizens of the European Union. Among these rights there are the fact of having an authentic European space in which to be able to live and work, study and shop without bureaucratic obstacles or discrimination.
THE MEASURES OF THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION
The European Commission wants to overcome these obstacles, but European citizenship is still too fragmented and the economic and social gaps in Europe are still too evident. One of these is the risk that instead of a single European citizenship there are as many as there are member countries of the Union.
In Europe, the legal regime for acquiring citizenship results from a mix of ius sanguinis (citizenship inherited from parents) and ius soli (citizenship given by the state on you were born). There is still no uniform approach, which affects the delay of an authentic European citizenship.
It should be considered also that in each Member State citizens live different memberships which determine different personal statuses.
This means that not all citizens enjoy full rights in the same way. For example, the current increase of illegal immigrants is due to the current asylum policies. The previous Dublin reform, the regulatory instrument for immigration in Europe, has recently been replaced by a new EU policy. In fact, in September 2020, the European Commission presented the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which is; a set of more efficient procedures that ensure clearer responsibilities and help to restore trust between Member States, while providing clarity to asylum seekers and their families.
THE ADVANTAGES OF EUROPEAN CITIZENSHIP
The Maastricht Treaty which entered into force in 1993 established that all States of the European Union have dual citizenship, but what are the advantages of being European citizens? Let’s see them together.
EUROPEAN PROJECTS FOR CITIZENS
The European Union, thanks to the numerous funds it allocates, makes it possible to implement projects aimed at strengthening European values and encourages its citizens to participate actively.
To underline the importance of citizenship for the creation of a true European society, the Commission has launched for the period 2014-2020 the ‘Europe for Citizens’ programme, through which all citizens, local authorities, trade unions, municipalities and organisations are encouraged to play an active role in the development of the Union. The programme funded initiatives on participation and democracy, intercultural dialogue, employment, social cohesion, sustainable development and the impact of European policies on society. The programme aimed to promote the common values of Europe, to foster a sense of belonging among the citizens of the Member States and to translate these ideas into reality.
The project had two main objectives: to raise awareness of memory, history and common values, as well as of the aims of the Union, i.e. to promote peace, the values of the Union and the well-being of its peoples by stimulating debate, reflection and networking. And to encourage the democratic and civic participation of EU citizens by enabling them to better understand the functioning of the Union and by creating the conditions for social and intercultural engagement and volunteering.
The European Union, thus raises the awareness of European citizenship through various projects that concern young people and school, including:
The European pride
Today’s new generation European pride is centred on a future made of soft policies such as the fight against climate change and data protection.
The president of the European Commission, Von der Leyen, puts the environment first by presenting maxi-investment projects for a green Europe, with the aim of making it become the world leader in innovation. There is talk of the Carbon Border Adjustment Tax, a unilateral import duty for all international products not manufactured according to the strict environmental standards of Europe.
It is the so-called green protectionism to defend European companies from rising costs and from losing competitiveness. Green tariffs on European borders against the rest of the world can in fact trigger retaliation.
Moreover, the focus is on valorising The European Open Science Cloud, currently only for researchers, wants to be open to the rest of the economy to have a trusted space for citizens’ data.
Reflecting on the meaning of European citizenship means reflecting on the continuation or otherwise of the link between citizenship and the nation-state, between citizenship and nationality. If, on the one hand, European citizenship ‘crosses’ borders, ending the Italian-foreigner dichotomy for EU citizens, on the other hand, it has not divested itself of state nationalities. Although national citizenship is not based on a static definition either, to a large extent the rights and duties of European citizens are still a ‘work in progress’. From what we have seen, European citizens can already today move and live in the EU, enjoy the principle of equal treatment, participate actively in political life in numerous ways, enjoy consular protection, and contribute to the formulation of European policies.
For European citizenship to be on an equal footing with national citizenship, however, a number of challenges need to be addressed: