Could the citizenship rights enjoyed by EU citizens be under threat?
Are Europeans fully aware of their citizenship rights - and using them to full effect?
In the 21st Century, what does it really mean to be a Citizen of the EU?
It’s twenty years since the Maastricht Treaty introduced the idea of EU citizenship – but that citizenship is now under pressure as never before. A 4-year major research project - bEUcitizen - All Rights Reserved? Barriers towards EUropean CITIZENship – has explored these challenges and can now reveal how best to respond to them.
- We need to look beyond a ‘one-size-fits-all’ EU citizenship. Local, urban and regional citizenship are useful models and can be combined with national and EU citizenship to offer a more embedded and responsive set of rights and duties.
- The social rights of EU citizens vary significantly as a result of different welfare systems in Member States. The social rights of EU migrant citizens are largely determined by the respective countries of origin and destination. The introduction of a European Minimum Income Scheme could be an effective policy to address some of the shortcomings of the system.
- The civil rights of EU citizens are protected by a confusing framework – but it leaves non-mobile citizens, LGBTI and third-country citizens with very little protection under EU law. Fundamental rights should be placed at the core of EU citizenship: this will require a radical overhaul of the EU Treaty.
- The political rights of EU citizens are underdeveloped and should be strengthened. We need more forms of direct democracy – such as referenda (under certain circumstances) - and greater powers for the European Parliament.
- While the economic rights of EU citizens are relatively well-developed, a greater focus on the Digital Single Market could further boost access to economic rights and overcome problems related to mobility. But for economic rights to be sustainable, they need to be socially embedded and balanced with other citizenship rights.
- Different categories of EU citizens have different access to EU rights. The EU must focus on how to manage the fallout of growing social, economic and political polarisation and the increasing numbers of poor people. There must be more emphasis on providing greater security for ‘outsiders’ and the ‘marginalised’, irrespective of their place of residence or their position in the labour market.
- Migrant care workers (usually women) are in a particularly vulnerable position in the EU. New laws need to be adopted which address funding issues for child care, and care of the elderly and disabled people.
- Multilingualism is of crucial importance, but may lead to substantial barriers to citizenship rights. The EU should therefore foster a general languages policy that balances linguistic diversity with European integration.
- The future of European citizenship is closely connected to the future of democracy in Europe. For many years, European integration was deemed a success story: member states pooled many decision-making powers and yet retained their essential sovereignty; and EU member states have not been at war with one another for more than seventy years. Political bargaining and a European legal framework replaced violent conflict to solve disputes. And the creation of the Common Market fostered economic growth. But by the time we were hit with the Euro crisis nearly ten years ago, this narrative had lost its legitimacy. Citizens now perceive European piecemeal integration as undemocratic. Many citizens feel rules are now imposed on them by an external agent – with ‘Brussels’ depicted as the demon. If EU citizenship is to win back its legitimacy, there must now be broader public discussion on and greater political imagination around how to insert more democracy back into the system.
Background to the Project
BEU Citizen is a 4-year multinational and multidisciplinary project financed by the European Commission under the FP7-programme. The project’s final conference will be held at the Résidence Palace, 175 rue de la Loi, 1048 Brussels on 26-28th April 2017. The research has been conducted by eminent academics from 26 institutions in 19 different countries in Europe and beyond. It is coordinated by Utrecht University. The project sets out to identify, investigate, discuss and propose ways to break down the barriers to the active use of EU citizenship rights – and to improve citizens’ knowledge of them and the duties they confer. Not only does our project provide a comparative overview and classification of the various barriers to the exercise of the rights and obligations of EU citizens in the Member States and some candidate countries; it also analyses whether and how such barriers can be overcome, and looks at which strategies and narratives can be developed to strengthen EU citizenship. The insights in our findings were developed by studying citizenship from the point of view of different disciplines: law, political science, social sciences, history, philosophy, public administration and economics.