Institutions of the European Union and European Citizenship

Topics: European Union, European Parliament, Treaty of Lisbon Pages: 33 (11896 words) Published: March 6, 2013
A European Citizen?*

John Keane

Since new citizens cannot be created all at once, you must begin by making use of those who exist, and to offer a new path for their hopes is the way to make them want to follow it… Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Considérations sur le gouvernement de Pologne (1772)

* Revised version of a public lecture delivered at the Zentrum für NiederlandeStudien Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, January 8th, 2008

John Keane - A European Citizen?

Nearly thirty-five years ago, the French scholar and publicist Raymond Aron poured ice-cold water on a brand new idea at its moment of birth. ‘There are no such animals as “European citizens” ’, wrote Aron. ‘There are only French, German, or Italian citizens’ [Aron 1974, pp.652-653]. If he were still with us today, Raymond Aron would be forced to concede that a new political animal has since been born. The European citizen speaks in a very faint voice and in many different languages, but her talk of European citizenship can nevertheless be heard in various quarters. Its presence is felt in university teaching and research initiatives; within school curricula like the Council of Europe’s Speak Out on European Citizenship programme; and in the manifestos of some political parties and in parliamentary debates. European citizenship functions as a ‘trigger norm’ in various fields of law covering such matters as consumer protection, asylum and immigration [Wernicke 2005]; and, of course, the principle of European citizenship has an important place in the Treaty of Amsterdam (signed in October 1997); in the reiteration of ‘citizenship of the Union’ in the Nice Treaty (signed in February 2001); and (most comprehensively) in the draft Constitution that encountered ratification difficulties during the first half of 2005, and in the recently approved Treaty of Lisbon. Whatever long-term effects the latter Treaty have on the project of European integration, it is safe to say that Raymond Aron was mistaken : there is today talk and some institutional backing and action in support of ‘European citizenship’. Its novelty in the history of European integration is indisputable. There have been few Big Ideals invented by the engineers of integration, but this one - alongside such slogans as ‘The Community of Europe’ and the vision of a ‘Single Market’ - arguably now ranks as the most persuasive and politically rich, despite the fact, emphasized in this monograph, that the project of ‘European citizenship’ is poorly defined, confronted with serious intellectual and political challenges, and certainly in need of political friends. Speaking of friends : who are the champions of European citizenship? Which people, groups, and organisations have tried to disprove Raymond Aron’s judgement? Put most simply, the answer is : those who foresaw that the stresses and strains of European integration would foster the need for a new collective sense of purpose that would bind the disparate populations of Europe together into some higher European unity; in other words, those who foresaw that the Monnet model of European integration would burn out – that regulatory effectiveness and economic achievements would not be enough because integration would stimulate public demands for having a say in decision making, as is now happening, sometimes with dramatic effects. The prescience of the supporters of European citizenship has been rewarded and, before it is too late, and details dissolve in the mists of time, historians need to record the thirty-five- year-long history of how the project of European citizenship happened. Such a history would need to include the path-breaking recommendations to the 1974 Paris meeting of the European Council, where for the first time there was talk of the importance of increasing mobility as a source of ‘European consciousness and the development of European citizenship’; and the Tindemans Report [Tindemans 1975], where the aim of creating a political...
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