Successful participation from Antwerp in the bEUcitizen research project
Impact and key findings of the research project bEUcitizen – Barriers Towards EU Citizenship
For the past four years, Prof. Dr. Anne-Marie Van den Bossche, Prof. Dr. Henri de Waele and Teresa Solís Santos LL.M. have been part of the bEUcitizen research project funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration (grant agreement No. 320294).
The completion was marked by the final conference on “The future of EU citizenship”, organised by the Antwerp team, which took place at the Residence Palace in Brussels on 26–28 April 2017. During this well-attended conference, also Prof. Dr. Herwig Verschueren acted as chair and discussant.
Impact and research results
The researchers from the Faculty of Law of the University of Antwerp have successfully contributed to the project with a dozen research papers, mainly on issues related to the civil and economic dimension of citizenship in the Belgian legal context, and took part in several dissemination events related to the research project. The research results were delivered to the European Commission via a series of policy briefs. The publications can be found at http://beucitizen.eu/publications/.
Currently a series of books is in the process of being published with Edward Elgar Publishing. In particular, the Antwerp team has contributed chapters to the books EU Citizens’ Economic Rights in Action (Sybe de Vries, Elena Ioratti, Paolo Guarda and Elisabetta Pulice, eds.) and Civil Rights and EU Citizenship (Sybe de Vries, Henri de Waele, Marie-Pierre Granger, eds).
Key findings of the project
There are huge challenges for the European Union: the economic and financial crisis, widening inequality, the rise of populism, widespread contestation and Euro-skepticism, challenges to open borders and mobility, and the consequences of the Brexit referendum, to list but a few. bEUcitizen research shows that it could ultimately be desirable to fundamentally alter the foundations of EU citizenship, placing fundamental rights at its core rather than mobility. Among the key findings of the bEUcitizen project can be mentioned:
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. They 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. 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 childcare, 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.. 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.
The website (http://beucitizen.eu/), containing publications, news, and blog items will remain active and provide ongoing open access to the outcomes, papers and background materials of the project.