in search of an identity
of the Union is not a consolidated reality, rather, we are attending to the
beginning of a long process that will result in one or another way depending on
European integration process fate. To fully develop a meaningful European
citizenship is necessary that a sort of European identity arise. Just like the
compulsory educational systems had a main performance in building up national
identities, the role of schools and universities in fostering a sense of
belonging, an European identity will be of the most importance.
Let have a glimpse of the main topics of the
current debate on European citizenship and its possible evolution.
Supporters and detractors
The gradualist approach of European
construction, devised by Monnet, was possibly the only one feasible and the one that has allowed
progress in the integration
process. However, that way of building up Europe has been based on bureaucratic institutions negotiated by
official élites that produce essentially decisions of economic sort. This
measures, and that is the main point, are contemplated with great indifference
and distrust by member States citizens.
The Brussels bureaucracy is considered as a very distant reality
by the ordinary Europeans.
The institutionalisation of the Citizenship
of the Union in Maasticht has been,
with no doubt, the most important effort of building a bridge between the Union institutions
citizens, of making them feel the economic and administrative regulations of
Brussels as something that has to do with their rights and duties, with their
At the moment, the result of this
attempt has been rather disappointing enough. Europeans largely ignore the new citizenship
statute, the lack of information is the general rule, and, arguably, the feeling of European identity has
not spread so much.
Which are the reasons of this relative failure? Answers,
evidently, vary according to the previous views on European integration process.
For the most pro-Europe observers, the
of the Union, as it is detailed in the
Treaties, is a completely insufficient legal statute. It grants quite
worthless rights, edited in a quite hurried and confused way and, in consequence,
it is not a surprise that Europeans do not get enthusiastic about it.
Furthermore, there are observers, as J.H.H.
Weiler, that comment the extended rumour that affirms that the inclusion of a chapter on the European citizenship in the Treaty of Maastricht
was due to a last minute complaint of Felipe González, Spanish prime
minister at that moment. González highlighted the fact that the great imbalance
between great economic advances (Economic
and Monetary Union) and meagre political progress in the Treaty that was to
be signed in Maastricht, will spark off discontent in the European public. It is
reported that the European leaders rushed to edit, in a quite amateurish
approach, the chapter on the European citizenship.
Nevertheless, for the most Pro-Europe sectors the
rights yielded by the
of the Union are quite limited, and the most important, free
movement of persons, is not completely developed. For
the most radicals, the Citizenship
of the Union is an empty of genuine content statute, that is being used to sell the idea of Europe. It is to hide the reality: Europe solely advances in
economic integration, but as far as political integration is concerned it goes
at snail pace.
Conversely, there is another opinion, the eurosceptic
that consider the advances as excessive and try to put a brake to any subsequent
evolution towards political integration an full European citizenship. This view
has its strongholds in Britain, especially in the Conservative party, and in
In Denmark, the Treaty of the European Union was rejected in
a referendum held in June 1992.
The Folketing, the Danish Parliament, presented in December to the Edinburgh European
Council, a document, Denmark in Europe, that summarised the reluctant Danish
view about the advances of the Treaty of
Maastricht, and among them, the institution of the
of the Union.
The European Council, to make easier the Danish
support to the Treaty, reaffirmed officially that the European citizenship doesn't substitute
at all the national citizenship, and the UE respect to the national
identities of its member States.
The Danish delegation approved an unilateral declaration
that summarised a great part of the elements of its eurosceptic stage regarding the European
the citizenship of the Union is a political and legal concept that completely differs
from the conception of citizenship in the sense that it appears in the Constitution of the Kingdom of Denmark and the Danish
legal system (... )
Any disposition of the Treaty neither implies
nor foresees a commitment that binds to create a Citizenship Union equivalent to
a nation-State citizenship (...)
The citizenship of the Union doesn't grant at
all to any resident of another member Statethe right of acquiring the Danish citizenship or any other
right, duty, privilege or advantage that come from the the Danish Constitution and
The future of the Citizenship
of the Union will depend on the evolution of the public opinion of its members
States between these two opposed views.
The extension of the rights
For many, the rights included in the citizenship statute
are limited and affect to a reduced number of Europeans, so they are considered
as irrelevant by most citizens.
The most significant is, with no
movement and residence of persons. Although there have been remarkable advances from the Treaty of Rome, where free movement was strictly bound to
labour activity, there are still serious limitations that should be eliminated.
Despite the different agreements reached, any country can re-establish controls
on border whenever its security was considered to be threatened and residence
freedom continues having different sort of restrictions.
The other rights affect in a
negligible way the daily life of European people: the right of
appeal to the European Ombudsman only
deals with matters under EU jurisdiction; the right of petition
to the European Parliament already existed and
has to do with a Parliament with very scarce competences; the right
to vote and stand in local government and European Parliament elections in
the country of residence affects to a minority of European, the right to have diplomatic
and consular protection from the authorities of any other member State
concerns solely the Europeans that visit a third country in which there are not embassies or consulates of its own
Following the opinion of the eurosceptic Rahlf Dahrendorf, the European citizenship lays still midway between two
of citizenship: what he denominates theoretical or soft
citizenship, certain feeling of being part of a community, of having some certain common
goals and values, and the practical or strong citizenship, real
rights -vote, fair trial, expression, association...- that can be claimed and juridical institutions to
protect the exercise of these rights.
The great debate in the following years will be: do we
make steps forward to strengthen the Citizenship
of the Union statute, or do we keep it
as a largely theoretical institution?
A step in the first direction has
been the edition and proclamation in the Nice European
Council of the Charter
of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
Inclusion or exclusion
From its birth in the ancient Greece, the concept
of citizenship has experienced dramatic changes. However something has
continuously characterised it, citizenship has always been based on an exclusion
rule, that is to say, in defining clearly who are and, mainly, who are not
Who is entitled to the European citizenship?
The only way to access to the Citizenship
of the Unionis is by having one of the member States nationality. It causes a
paradoxical situation: the same person coming from a third country with the same
circumstances will be treated in a very different way. In some States, this
person would get the nationality and, therefore, would become an European
citizen; whereas in other States, this individual would be excluded of
nationality and European citizenship.
Until recent important changes, Germany's legislation
kept on being based essentially on the blood right. German nationality was
denied to a third generation Turk, although he/she and his/her parents were born in
meanwhile it was granted automatically to any ethnic German coming from the old Soviet
Union, although he/she didn't know anything about German language or culture. In other
countries, as France, this same person would have already acquired the French nationality
in consequence, the European citizenship.
of the Union was launched excluding millions of third countries
nationals (TCN) that live within its frontiers.
In fact, the permeability of the interior frontiers introduced by the Agreement
and Convention of Schengen,
has come accompanied by rising more barriers in the Union external frontiers and
by hardening the asylum right procedures. Here, in Spain, on an almost daily
basis, we watch with dismay on TV the pateras (small and shaky boats)
transporting illegal immigrants from Northern Africa. An unbearable proportion
of this trips end up in a tragedy.
One of the greatest dilemmas that
Europe currently faces is how to build an Union based on national identities and
to exclude, at the same time, millions of TCN that already conform a conspicuous
part of Europe's human landscape. These peoples are a significant
element of Europe and, therefore, of European identity, which the European
citizenship will be based on.
Nowadays, and the tragic events
of 11 September 2001 in New York have reinforced this trend, a conservative and
reductive view on what is Europe has imposed. But how long will we manage to go
on hiding and denying the reality?
The democratic participation
After the signature of the Treaty of the European Union in 1992, what the
journalists have denominated democratic deficit became more manifest. We are
beholders of a process in which important competences, the foremost example is
and Monetary Union and the Euro, has been transferred from national
institutions, elected and democratically legitimated, to European institutions
not legitimised by people's vote. The members of the European
Commission are named by the national governments, the Council
of the European Union, despite a growing number of decisions are adopted by
majority, continues being an intergovernmental institution. Finally, the European
Parliament, the sole institution legitimated by suffrage, has so scarce
competences that, its decisions and debate are mostly ignored by public opinion.
All those institutions are quite distant from the Europeans, who largely
consider them as ruled by a technocratic bureaucracy
The only way to build up a
genuine European citizenship should be based on solving this democratic
deficit. Citizenship is not a passive condition, that is to say, enjoying a
series of rights and freedoms, but, it should be an active citizenship, based on
political and civic participation. National citizenship has been constructed
historically through this kind of social participation. This involvement has
often adopted the shape of clashes and conflicts, which, in the long term, have
developed a set of civil, political and social rights and duties, and a
conscience of identity.
The European Parliament
At the beginning of the 2000, Joshka
Fischer, German foreign minister, put forward again the great European dream:
the construction of an European State that, of course, will adopt a federal
shape, and whose institutions (President, Parliament...) will be elected by the
people and will have political competences of certain magnitude.
The citizens of that State will have rights and duties and will count on judicial institutions
which they could claim their rights to. In 2000, today and in the next future,
this will be one of the greatest debates: the need of establishing a federal
The emergence of an European identity
The concept of European identity
is, at least, problematic. To some extent, a great part of our continent's
inhabitants feel themselves as Europeans, but a majority feel more intensely
their belonging to France, Portugal, Spain, or Catalonia, Scotland or Flanders.
Identities are not easely separated and, often, different feelings of affinity -ethnic
or racial group, gender, political ideas, cultural affinities...- are mingled.
A genuine European
Union requires an European identity, but it does not exist. There is no
linguistic or cultural homogeneity. A common identity cannot be constructed on
neither Christianism, nor democracy, nor economical identity, nor, of course,
A lot af scholars
have been lately trying to get to the bottom of what means to be an European.
Samuel Huntington, a celebrated American academic, affirms that Europe finishes where
Eastern Orthodox Christendom and Islam start. So, Greece, member State of the EU, is
it not an European country?
The Muslims that have been so long living any neighbourhood of London, Paris or Düsseldorf, are
they not European?.
From another point of view, a French scholar, Henry Mondrasse,
has claimed that a common cultural European identity does exist and that
it could be the base for a political Union. Should this identity be based on
individualism, the idea of nation developed in the last centuries, a certain way
of combining science and technology or a certain idea of democracy, according to
this definition of European culture, which is the difference between an American
or an Australian and an European? Could a Russian or a Bulgarian be considered
What I am intending to highlight
is that an European identity will not arise from an impossilbe cultural
uniformity, neither will be built against other civilizations. Islam is,
specially after New York's World Trade Center massacre, the foremost candidate
to be the enemy. The victory of this kind of tendences would be a
dramatic failure for the very idea of European integration.
One of the most suggestive theories in this field
comes from a celebrated German thinker, Jurgen Habermas. According to the well
know view of Habermas, in a liberal democracy, citizens should not be identified with a common cultural
identity, but with some constitutional principles that fully guarantee their rights and freedoms.This proposal is
suggestive, because it comes from the best liberal and tolerant tradition of
Europe, and escapes from and fights against ethnic nationalism, the great foe of peace and freedom in the
early 21st century Europe.