European citizenship, EU should promote
Should the EU invest resources in the promotion of European citizenship?
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European citizenship is beneficial to the people of Europe and so the EU should endeavour to promote...
European citizenship is beneficial to the people of Europe and so the EU should endeavour to promote it: if the EU wishes to represent the people of Europe, it should act in the interests of these people where possible. The idea of EU citizenship contributes to bringing the peoples of Europe closer together. This not only benefits the process of European integration, but helps to ensure peace and understanding across the continent. Despite a history of conflict, Europeans share many values and a large amount of cultural history, and it is good to celebrate this. Furthermore, the principle of European citizenship encourages people to move around the EU to study or find work and to integrate more easily when they do so: if people feel less like outsiders, they are more likely to become more involved in the life of their local communities.
European citizenship is artificial and does not accord with reality. There is no collective European identity. Irish culture and Greek culture, for example, have little in common. Beyond being democratic, it is unclear that the EU Member States share any values, and a culture of democracy is not unique to Europe. Consequently, it can be argued that EU citizenship is meaningless. However, even if it were possible to show that the idea had genuine meaning, benefits such as bringing people closer together or encouraging people to feel less like outsiders, require that citizenship is linked to some form of identity. In the case of national citizenship, this is often created through a shared culture and set of historical experiences. For example, many Irish people see their oppression at the hands of the British state and hardships, such as the Potato Famine, as a meaningful part of who they are. It is difficult to see how people in distant corners of the European Union can see themselves as bound by such a shared history. If we look at the twentieth century alone, it is clear that the experiences of citizens of Estonia and Portugal, for example, differ radically. Unless people can identify with each other, ‘European citizenship’ is unlikely to bring them closer together.
In order for the EU to expand beyond its economic origins and function effectively as a representati...
In order for the EU to expand beyond its economic origins and function effectively as a representative institution, it is necessary to have a united demos: promoting EU citizenship helps to reinforce this. The EU has already achieved a lot for citizens of its Member States. Examples of this include fighting discrimination in the workplace, reducing the cost of using a mobile phone abroad, or working to improve cooperation between European police forces to help prevent crime. It is often more efficient and effective to regulate things on a regional basis, e.g. carbon emissions or competition policy. A stronger sense of European citizenship would increase the willingness of governments and citizens to cooperate with such legislation. Furthermore, it would almost certainly increase the percentage of citizens who vote in elections for the European Parliament, increasing the legitimacy both of the Parliament and the work of the EU as a whole.
It is not clear that there is a desire for the EU to expand its existing role. France and the Netherlands both voted ‘no’ to the new Constitutional Treaty in 2005 and it took two attempts to persuade the Irish to vote in favour of ratifying the Lisbon Treaty which replaced it. It is argued that one of the things which led to the ‘no’ votes in France and Netherlands was the opposition to the creation of a European superstate which the inclusion of an official anthem, flag and motto seemed to suggest. The sense that the EU exists to advance its own power at the expense of national governments, rather than offering real economic benefits, is one reason why Europeans increasingly distrust Brussels. Many countries feel that a more powerful EU would take too much sovereignty away from their own governments which can better identify and act upon the interests of their own citizens, and which are more accountable to them.
Promoting EU citizenship is crucial for the success of the economic rights upon which the EU is foun...
Promoting EU citizenship is crucial for the success of the economic rights upon which the EU is founded: there are good justifications for the economic rights conferred by membership of the EU. Free movement improves the welfare of citizens, with the benefit to consumers - as a result of increased efficiency which reduces prices - outweighing any harm to national industry. However, in order for free movement to succeed, those living in any given Member State need to be willing to welcome foreign nationals. Strikes in Britain, for example, have shown that local people are often hostile to free movement and such industrial action has often resulted in foreign nationals losing their jobs (see link to article below). Promoting EU citizenship and its benefits is likely to encourage people to see the increased options open to them as a result of the EU. Recognising their own ability to work abroad, for example, is likely to encourage acceptance of workers from other EU states. More importantly, harmful behaviour is usually a result of an inability to identify with those from another group. EU citizenship is a valuable means of helping people in different states to identify with each other and so promote tolerance. Without such a means of identification, the free movement project is likely to continue to stall.
Promoting EU citizenship is not necessary for the success of these economic rights, and may in fact be detrimental. It is clear, for the reasons above, that not all citizens of Member States want to be part of a European social and political community and that a European identity is a meaningless concept. Promoting citizenship further is a measure which is not backed by consensus (as shown by the desire of numerous Member States to invoke exceptions to the right to claim equal benefits to nationals). Focusing on citizenship as a tool to achieve effective free movement therefore risks alienating both the governments and citizens of certain Member States: they may as a consequence be less willing to support free movement. If the EU wishes to strengthen the right to free movement (removing exceptions etc) it would be better to focus on promoting the reciprocity of rights involved in this economic arrangement than relying on a controversial notion of social solidarity.
A meaningful sense of European citizenship is necessary for the EU to be taken seriously as an actor...
A meaningful sense of European citizenship is necessary for the EU to be taken seriously as an actor on the global stage. The growth in power of states such as China or Japan has weakened the voices of European states such as Britain, France and Italy, with comparatively smaller economies and weaker armies. A united Europe is more likely to have the power to influence the agenda at organisations like the UN, for example, or to shift political opinion globally in a particular direction. However, this requires the EU to genuinely represent its citizens. Promoting citizenship will help engagement and so assist this.
It is unrealistic for the EU to aim to become a serious international actor, given the enormous diversity of opinion on matters of foreign policy. The division between the UK and continental Europe with regard to the Iraq War, or more recently the warmth showed towards Russia by Germany whilst other European states remained hostile, demonstrated the way in which consensus is entirely lacking in this area. This is unsurprising: the different locations of the EU Member states may necessitate different reactions towards non-Member states. For historical reasons some Member states tend to be more in favour of intervention than others. Furthermore, any assertion of authority by the EU weakens the ability of Member States to speak out when they disagree with their European neighbours.
European citizenship is a useful means by which one can promote liberal values. For example, the Ac...
European citizenship is a useful means by which one can promote liberal values. For example, the Active European Remembrance part of the EU’s current Citizens for Europe program educates younger generations about Nazism and Stalinism to ensure that memory of these periods remains. Doing this at a European level can help to guard against the growth of extremist ideologies within Member States.
Liberal values can be promoted without citizenship as demonstrated by the European Convention of Human Rights instigated by the Council of Europe. Moreover, it may be harmful to the growth of liberal values if they are promoted as part of an institutional package with which many people are not comfortable and that may seem to detract from the nation state. The advantage of the separate and larger Council of Europe, and of the European Convention on Human Rights, is the fact that respect for these rights is divorced from any political or economic agreements, emphasising that such human rights are universal and cannot be rejected because a particular state doesn’t believe in a grander European project.
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