EU citizenship gives people certain rights and freedoms as adopted in the European Treaties (TEU).
MEPs want to combat what they call EU “illiteracy”, meaning ignorance about the values that underpin EU institutions and their rights within this. They want to improve EU democratic structures by consolidating European citizenship and establishing a “European Agora”.
“Following-up on the proposals of the Conference on the Future of Europe, on 25 April 2023, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs submitted a draft report and its recommendation for reforms were adopted. The aim is to improve European democracy, including through the revision of the EU Treaties on Parliamentarianism and EU citizenship.“
In my article on Parliamentarism, European citizenship and democracy (see below), I described the reforms proposed on Parliamentarianism. In this article, I look at the EU reform agenda of the EU Constitutional Committee by examining changes suggested on European citizenship.
Strengthening European citizenship
“The rights and values underpinning the Union and enshrined in Articles 2 and 6 TEU put European citizenship formally at the centre of the European project. In practice, the EU is far more centred around the interests of the Member States than those of a common European citizenship.”
MEPs are also aware that the rights deriving from European citizenship are often not understood by EU citizens. This may be the reason for the low voter turnout among citizens in European and municipal elections. Another shortcoming of EU citizenship is that there is currently no forum to express issues related to European citizenship. Even for European elections, there is no public sphere, as most voters are centred around national issues.
MEPs believe that:
European citizens should learn clearly about their citizens’ rights, laid down through an EU Citizenship Statute. Also, citizenship education in Europe should be strengthened. Content should include EU politics, EU citizenship and participatory democracy across the whole of Europe. Citizenship bestows rights but comes with certain duties as well. Curricula in Europe should contain elements of the rights and duties.
Do UK citizens know what EU citizenship means?
I believe that, if more had been known by the British public about the rights, freedoms and protections gifted by our former EU citizenship, the vote in 2016 might have been very different. (How democratic and valid that vote was is another issue.) It is only now that some British voters realise what they have lost through no longer being EU citizens. It’s not just the long queues at the borders after losing freedom of movement. We can bemoan the loss of consular protection by EU member states in countries not covered by UK representation. EU citizenship meant that we were protected by EU law and had recourse to the European Court if we felt our rights were violated. We had consumer protection, workers’ protection, and the right to work, study and settle in any other EU country. Our young people are missing out on this opportunity.
The swelling numbers of Brits who have now applied for Irish citizenship (on the grounds of their immigrant grannies) or German (on the grounds of their Jewish family fleeing from the Nazis) show that many value EU citizenship. How many of those who cannot make such ancestry claims would also have preferred to retain their EU citizenship? There is a website where you can support a group of Brits trying to recover our EU citizenship.
European citizenship of Brits living in the EU
MEPs call on the Commission to develop a citizenship competences strategy. This should focus not only on “mobile” European citizens, along the lines of Parliament’s 2023 proposals, but also on third-country nationals who have resided in the EU for a long time. This would be of great interest to UK citizens who reside in EU countries. MEPs believe that they deserve, under certain circumstances, access to European citizenship.