WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A EUROPEAN CITIZEN?

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According to the European Union treaties, we are European citizens, but the expression European citizenship has a very specific technical meaning that only few know. Let’s see it together to better understand what it means to be a European citizen.

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:

  • They have the right to vote and stand for administrative and European elections;
  • In the absence of their embassy abroad, they enjoy the consular protection of the authorities of any Member State;
  • They can petition the European Parliament, contact the European Ombudsman and participate in an initiative 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, the European Year of Citizens, 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. European citizenship should be an integrative citizenship which does not detract from the many national citizenships.

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). Each system has its flaws and choices are usually based on legislative policy needs. 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 reception policies, which suffer the choices of the political orientations of the governments of the moment. A solution to the problem could be an initiative to support European citizenship by harmonizing national citizenships.

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.

  • Right to diplomatic protection. If we are in a non-EU country where the Italian embassy is not present, in case of need we can contact the embassy of any state of the Union;
  • Right to reside in any country of the Union. The border controls provide for cooperation between the police of the participating States, with an electronic connection between the police bodies (Schengen Information System) which allows to report suspicious people and trafficking in real time;
  • Right to work. Equal treatment is guaranteed for all citizens of the European Union, from hiring to working conditions, from wages to social security. In addition, each European citizen can practice the profession to which the person has been qualified in the country of origin.

And also:

  • Right to actively participate in the political life of each Member State, therefore citizens can vote and stand in the municipal elections of the state in which they reside;
  • The EU is the most successful peace project in history and European citizens are closely connected economically and culturally, also thanks to the democratic values they share;
  • The single market, the most developed in the world, is based on four fundamental EU freedoms, namely living and working in any EU country, transferring money, selling goods and providing unrestricted services;
  • From a food and environmental point of view, European standards meet the most stringent quality standards in the world, prohibiting companies from selling contaminated food or polluting the environment;
  • Consumers are refunded if they return a product, such as a travel ticket in case of delay or cancellation of the trip;
  • The EU protects all minorities and oppressed people by offering equal treatment for all, regardless of nationality, gender, culture or sexual orientation;
  • EU countries have more importance on the world stage than 27 nations alone, both politically and commercially;
  • EU citizens can use the mobile network and online services at no additional cost throughout the Union in total safety, since the data is protected by EU legislation;
  • EU programs, such as Erasmus + and Horizon, support businesses to make the most of all opportunities through funding, coaching, business networks and exchange programs;
  • The EU protects workers in the workplace, in accordance with the provisions of the Charter of Fundamental Rights;
  • The EU protects citizens from the negative effects of globalization by supporting small businesses with specific rules.

European projects for young people and schools

The European Union raises the awareness of European citizenship through various projects that concern young people and school, including:

  • The Leonardo da Vinci program provides funding to improve the professional training of students and workers, through internship activities in foreign companies and continuous updating to the latest technology;
  • The Socrates program fosters cooperation between Member States by spreading knowledge of European languages and promoting exchanges of experience between schools in the Community. It is divided into two sub-programs, Erasmus for university students, and Comenius for secondary schools;
  • Youth is a European program of support and funding for projects that promote intercultural learning, solidarity and international mobility of young people.

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 itself.

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.

It also does not seem to convince the idea of a European cloud, not to give the data of half a billion citizens to Amazon or Microsoft. 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.

If you are looking for an authoritative partner for projects that promote active citizenship and European identity, e-Medine could be the solution for you.