European Citizenship: Term Definition

The issues of European identity, citizenship and nationality are influenced by globalization and integrations processes, new political and social agenda of the region. Intense nationalism characterizes the middle of the 20th century, but it was also the time when people tried to define and express the idea of Europe (Rumford 77). The participants also agreed that sovereignty is divisible and that national governments should cede a small portion of their sovereignty to the new entity. One thread that runs through all the plans for a united Europe is the assumption that some degree of European social unity exists.

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At the beginning of the 21st century, ideas of identity, citizenship and nationality are closely related to each other, reflecting the integration approaches and unity of Western Europe. The removal of internal barriers to a single market would enable the factors of production to move freely across national borders. National firms and capital could move toward the core in order to benefit from the concentration of economic life there (Rosenberger 82). Moreover, national governments would lose the right to subsidize firms, and domestic firms would be forced to compete with more productive firms from other member states. In part, the improvement in the regional fund was compensation which these leaders demanded in exchange for support of the policy to create the internal market (Harlow, p. 33).

Participation in the fourth principle underpinning the EC regional policy. The commitment to participation has grown through the years and finds its most recent expression in the new Committee of the Regions established under the Maastricht Treaty. The principle has broad acceptance in this era, which is characterized by popular distrust of central authorities. Traditional political parties and national elites have lost support, and regional politics offers a promising alternative for many. The meanings of the four basic values which form the basis for EC regional policy are overlapping and similar, but with separate nuances. Each expresses a deep vein in European society (Rosenberger 76). Together they have shaped EC regional policy and provided it with a basis that ensures the continuity of the policy. The Commission is an active participant rather than a passive provider of funds, and regional authorities are beginning to take an active role as well. EC funds should not be used to replace national funds but rather to enhance the program or project (Fakiolas, p. 12).

The institutionalization of the citizenship of the European Union in the EU treaty levels importance of nationality and identity, creating a unified European nationality based on historical and social relations. Citizenship in Western Europe is generally assumed to confer on individuals social and economic rights as well as political rights. The constitutions of a number of European countries state, for example, that citizens have the right to work (Walter 33). The welfare state is expected to protect its citizens from the extremes of inequality or poverty (Avery and Cameron 41). The attributes of economic and social citizenship are less clearly defined than those of political citizenship, but they play an increasingly important role in the concept of citizenship as it is understood in Western Europe. Citizenship and legitimacy are two sides of the same coin. The definition of citizenship given in the paragraph above is based on the assumption of a legitimate state, one with the sovereign power to confer citizenship. Citizens confer legitimacy on their political system, and the political system confers citizenship on them. The modern meanings of citizenship and legitimacy have evolved in tandem in European history. Citizens, in contrast to subjects, participate in the political life of the state (Rosenberger 33). One of the attributes of a legitimate state is the provision for effective participation by its citizens. Citizenship is customarily singular (Democracy and Accountability, p. 1). Persons are citizens of only one sovereign entity. Persons acquiring new citizenship usually relinquish their former citizenship. Federal systems present a challenge, however, to generalization. Sovereignty is shared between the federal government and the subunits. Citizenship is conferred by the federal government but exercised in both the larger unit and one of the subunits. Citizenship in the European Union is only partly comparable to federal citizenship because the member states and not the Union are the conferring authorities. The Treaty of Rome does not include the concept of citizenship or related human rights. The omission may seem surprising given the concern about human rights in postwar Europe, but the Council of Europe and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms were already in existence to ensure basic rights (Konig and Brauninger 125). The purpose of the Treaty of Rome was to establish an economic community that would be one of a growing number of communities to bind peoples and provide them with a shared destiny. The treaty does have a number of provisions, however, that provide grounds for later development (Anderson, p. 65).

Agnes Heller rejects the argument that a European identity existed before the eighteenth century, but in that century, a common European identity was forged. According to her, changes in social life and in political thought fused and reinforced one another to create a specific idea of Europe in which modernity and Europe were linked (Heller 12). Her conception of Europe is dynamic, rational, and free; it flourished as a culture from the Napoleonic era until World War I (Heller 15). She is uncertain about the fate of the European identity today but hopes that the drama of the previous era may now be followed by “the epic of settling in” (Heller, p. 25).

The Parliament, with its representative and supervisory functions, and the Court, with effective judicial powers, provide a foundation on which the concept of citizenship has gown. In addition, the treaty states that any European state may apply for membership, but the criteria that have guided the selection have been those established by the Council of Europe and include democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights (Rees, p. 23). The most important contribution of the Treaty of Rome to the concept of citizenship is in the field of economic citizenship. The treaty gives individuals rights to free movement and to freedom from discrimination on the basis of nationality or sex (Mucha and Szczepanski, p. 1).

In sum, the notions of identity, citizenship and nationality are not independent today marled by close relations of all nations and states, economic and political unity of the region. The concepts of citizenship and human rights are linked in European history, as are the concepts of citizenship and legitimacy. The definitions of citizenship and human rights have broadened throughout history, and the responsibility of governments to protect and promote citizenship and human rights has gown as well. The context is composed of the following long-term factors which give rise to the policy and shape it: the basic attributes of the policy area, the relevant cultural values, and the legal structure within which the policy is made.

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Works Cited

  1. Anderson, M. Policing the European Union. Clarendon Press, 1996.
  2. Democracy and Accountability in the EU and the Role of National Parliaments: Report and Proceedings of the Committee v. 1. European security Committee. Stationery Office Books, 2002.
  3. Harlow, C. Accountability in the European Union, 2004.
  4. Heller, Agnes. “Europe: An Epilogue?” The Idea of Europe, ed. by B. Nelson, D. Roberts, and W. Veist. New York: Berg, 1992.
  5. Fakiolas, e. T. The European Union’s Problems of Cohesion. New Zealand International Review, 32 (2007), 12.
  6. Graham Avery and Fraser Cameron, The Enlargement of the European Union (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), p. 41.
  7. Konig, T. and T. Bräuninger ‘The inclusiveness of European decision rules’, Journal of Theoretical Politics 10 (1999), 125-42.
  8. Mucha, J., Szczepanski, M. Polish Society in the Perpective of Its Integration with the European Union. East European Quarterly, 35 (2001), 1.
  9. Rees, T. Mainstreaming Equality in the European Union. Routledge, 2002.
  10. Rosenberger, S. The Other Side of the Coin: Populism, Nationalism, and the European Union. Harvard International Review, 26 (2004), 12.
  11. Rumford, Ch. The European Union: A Political Sociology. WileyBlackwell, 2002.
  12. Walter Mattli, The Logic of Regional Integration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999.
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