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Citizenship and the European Union

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Citizenship and the European Union

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  • April 20, 2004
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Page 1 of 39
Citizenship and the European Union

1. Introduction

The idea and practice of European citizenship is relevant in two main ways

to the recent controversy in Germany over plans by the governing Social-

Democratic Party to reform citizenship law. One of these is that the

concepts of citizenship and nationality continue to be thought of as

synonymous in Germany but are now relatively distinct, both linguistically

and politically, in several other national regimes and in the European Union

(EU). Secondly, on the one hand, new German provisions will be more

similar than before to the nationality laws of other member states by

introducing a right [as opposed to a discretionary possibility] to citizenship

through residence and legal naturalization, as well as ancestry. But, on the

other, the decision on 16 March 1999 to abandon the possibility of dualcitizenship

[or, in my language, nationality] means that, in this respect, the

German approach to citizenship now runs counter to suggestions made by

some specialists about the EU as a site of democratic practice.

This paper will open with a brief discussion of the distinctiveness of

citizenship and nationality. This is necessary so that one can understand the

following section outlining EU provisions. In conclusion, this paper will

discuss some of the arguments about the prospects for EU citizenship, with

special reference to loosening the overlap between the legal label of

national identity and the normative practice of citizenship.

Elizabeth Meehan


2. Citizenship and Nationality

As I have suggested elsewhere1, there are good grounds for treating the

overlap of citizenship and nationality as a matter of historical contingency

and not as an analytically necessary connection. In short, nationality is a

legal identity from which no rights need arise, though obligations might--

as is obvious when nationals are called 'subjects'. Conversely,...