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The Good Society 12.1 (2003) 25-26

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European Citizenship Introduction

Sebastien Gagnon-Messier

It was more than ten years ago, in February 1992, that the heads of state of the (then) twelve members of the European Community/European Union signed the Treaty of Maastricht. According to the European Commission, the introduction of the supra-national European citizenship made "the link between the citizens in the Member States and the European Union [ . . . ] more direct" (2002.) Although such a citizenship was unprecedented, writers had already begun discussing the apparent erosion of national citizenship and the blurring of the line between the rights of citizens and non-citizens, drawing on legal precedents in the US and Europe.

Ten years later, however, there were no ceremonies marking the legal creation of European citizenship, and the European Union continues to struggle with its much decried "democratic deficit." Furthermore, as several writers observed at the time, this new citizenship was long on rights, but short on duties. Of the former, one (the right to petition the EU Ombudsman) was even extended to all residents, without restriction on citizenship. In spite of the novelty of the concept then, its execution amounted to little more than, in the words of d'Oliveira, "pie in the sky."

Nevertheless, European citizenship continues to pose the same basic challenges to national citizenship that Soysal and others have highlighted, and in turn raises such questions as who the citizens of Europe are and how the polity of Europe can function. What is the EU's vision of its good society? What level of competence can or should be expected of its citizens? Can the EU meet the standards Dauenhauer, following Walzer, sets for a political community? This symposium brings together different perspectives on European citizenship, and in the process begins to provide some answers to the questions above.

Looking at the introduction of European citizenship in the second part of this symposium, Garcia and Tegelaars draw attention to the tension between the member states and the EU, the inter-governmental and the supra-national. This tension is not new to the citizenship realm, yet it reached a new level at the time, made particularly clear by some member states' request that revisions be made to the citizenship clause of the Maastricht Treaty. 1 In spite of its limited scope, European citizenship did represent a significant concession on the part of member states, and opened up additional avenues of participation for citizens and non-citizens alike at the European level. In their conclusion, they ask whether citizens will use these additional avenues to mobilize and make claims on the state. That question is in turn taken up by Guild in her piece on the Carpenter decision of the European Court of Justice.

The Carpenter case presented an interesting challenge to national interpretation of immigration laws: an Englishman married to a third country national (who had overstayed her visa) found his request for his wife to remain in the UK denied. In his appeal he "sought to establish this right of residence as a citizenship right at the level of European Union law," to which the UK government countered that the matter was entirely internal, as Mr. Carpenter had "not exercised his right of free movement," being domiciled in his native England. Although the Court found in favor of the plaintiff, it did so solely on the basis of Mr. Carpenter's economic activity—noteworthy in light of the EU's stated goal of using European citizenship as a way of adding a political dimension to the EU's existing economic integration. While Garcia and Tegelaars are correct to point out that European citizenship marks the return of the political after its exclusion for 40 years, the Carpenter case indicates the economic remains a (the?) crucial element of EU citizenship.

Moving to political rights in the second part of this symposium, Shaw examines the right to vote in municipal and European elections. Drawing on reports from the European Commission, she argues that electoral rights have recently been "lame ducks" given the low level of participation and impact on...


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