Nested “Old” And “New” Citizenships in the European Union: Bringing out the Complexity

5 Colum. J. Eur. L. 389 (1999)

Theodora Kostakopoulou. Lecturer in European Law, Manchester University, UK.

The institution of European Union citizenship, which was established by the Treaty on European Union, has been the subject of considerable attention over the last few years. Justifiably so, since European citizenship could be a catalyst for the creation of a Euro-polity endowed with a stronger constitutional framework and greater social legitimacy. Union citizenship also attests that the historic moment seems to have passed for trying to define citizens claims and entitlements in terms of membership in a national community. It is, perhaps, this realization that has prompted work on the constructive potential of this institution and has fueled a more general debate on the viability of the nationality model of citizenship in light of globalization and increasing transnational mobility. It is thus not surprising that the debate concerning European citizenship has shifted into a European debate on citizenship. This has just begun “spilling over” beyond Europe itself, since the possibility of decoupling citizenship and nationality echoes theoretical concerns and practical problems elsewhere, too.

Although Union citizenship has been the subject of detailed legal analyses, the literature tends to treat Union citizenship as a unitary institution comprising an unambiguous set of rights. What seems to have escaped the theorists attention is that European citizenship may not be one but several “citizenships.” In this paper, I argue that woven within Union citizenship is the nationality model of citizenship. The nationality model rests on alienage distinctions (i.e., differential rights for members and others) and manifests itself in the qualified recognition of nationals of other member states as full associates. The influence of the nationality model is also reflected in the fact that Union citizenship depends on the tenure or acquisition of national citizenship.’ Although the nationality model of citizenship prefigures European citizenship, its limitations are profound and cannot be carried forward in the European citizenship model. To transcribe statements and assumptions derived from national citizenship into the discourse and practice of European citizenship will constrain the maturation of the supranational model of citizenship and frustrate its potential to create an inclusive European public.

The purpose of this paper is to bring forth the hidden tensions and opposing political dynamics operating within the monadic totality of Union citizenship. To this end, I examine the processes of reciprocal interaction between “old” (that is, national) and “new” (or European Union) citizenships within an analytical frame that distinguishes between the multiple layers of meaning constitutive of European citizenship. My aim here is not to resolve existing tensions by producing a dialectical synthesis of the contradictions. Instead, I wish to put forward an argument for the analytical separation of the two distinct models of citizenship coexisting within Union citizenship.

Such a separation is timely, considering the modest reforms agreed at the Amsterdam summit and the need to transform European citizenship into a meaningful institution that meets the aspirations of the residents of Europe. Shifting the center of gravity from the nationality model of citizenship to the supranational one is therefore crucial to the future development of European citizenship.

The discussion is structured as follows: Section 1 discusses the novelty of European Union citizenship while section 2 places national fears that European citizenship might be a “dangerous supplement” to traditional notions of sovereignty under critical scrutiny. Section 3 describes the Europeanization of national citizenship, whereby national citizenship is incrementally adapted to the requirements of European Community law. In section 4, the focus shifts to the “nationalization” of European citizenship, that is, to the ways in which the nationality model of citizenship has permeated the new supranational form of citizenship. This section unravels the duality of European citizenship in both the pre- and post-Amsterdam eras and makes some suggestions for further institutional reform.