European Union Citizenship and National Citizenship


European citizenship among the most contentious issues in Europe as evidences by the magnitude of discussions examining the rights of EU citizens, the relevance of EU citizenship and the challenges that come with invoking the rights that come with EU citizenship(Sanders et al., 2012). Sometimes EU citizenship has been presented in a manner that suggests there is a dichotomy between being a citizen of EU member state and being a EU citizen especially in the United Kingdom as evidenced by the Brexit vote.  Despite the challenges in defining the rights of a EU citizens and ensuring they are implemented, the fact is that there is no dichotomy between being a citizen of one of the EU member states and being a EU citizen.  The EU citizenship lacks the potential to weaken national citizenship because of its legal framework, which makes it hard for it to weaken national identity.   

The European Union Citizenship is a result of the Treaty of the Union, which was signed in 1992(Meehan, 1995; Faist, 2001; Kostakopoulou, 2008).  Most scholars viewed European Union Citizenship as something that would not last or even replace national citizenship because of the obvious political barriers. Many launched elaborate and convincing defense about the important of the national citizenship, its primacy and the weak potential of the European Union citizenship replacing it. The debate on whether the EU citizenship could transform to become something formidable as it is today lacked at that time.  The interventions of the European Union Court of Justice have been responsible for the growth and development of the concept(Bauböck, 2014). The court has been active in defining key responsibilities that define EU citizenship.   A close examination of the entire process that has seen EU citizenship become a key concern can help shed light on whether it has the potential to complement, replace, or weaken national citizenship. 

The introduction of EU citizenship was met with a minimalist perception that considered something symbolic(Jacobs, 2007; Shachar, 2009). It was a new concept since it was the first time that a citizenship that goes beyond the national borders had emerged. Some of the rights bestowed on EU citizens included freedom of movement, protection, and many other civil liberties with the exception of voting rights.  The availability of limited rights is attributed to political units that make up the European Union because of the implications it would have on the sovereignty of the political units that make up the EU. The fact that EU citizenship does confer voting rights to everyone makes it difficult for it to replace or weaken national citizenship. 

The European Union has been faced with a myriad of difficulties with the most common one being the hard stance taken by member states when it comes to discussing and agreeing on contentious issues.   The EU comprises many powerful states who value their national heritage and values, which means they would focus on passing their agenda without weaken their position in Europe(Sanders et al., 2012). The signing of The Amsterdam Treaty is an example of how difficult it is for the union to arrive at a unanimous decision.   The EU citizenship lacks the potential to become post national or supranational in nature because of the complex powerful political communities that make up the union (Maas, 2013). The EU citizenship is more transnational in nature since it relies on the agreements signed by the member states, which are led by stable and powerful political communities. 

European citizenship can be described as an accessory to the member state citizenship. The only way to lose EU citizenship is to lose member country citizenship. The conditions that define when it is justifiable to lose citizenship according to the laws of the members of the society.  EU citizenship is dependent on the state of the members state nationality, which means if one loses the member state nationality then EU citizenship is lost. The connection between EU citizenship and member state citizenship confirms that it would be difficult for EU citizenship to override the national citizenship(Jacobs, 2007; Kostakopoulou, 2008).  It is founded on the laws that have been formulated by all member states, which means the only way to override national citizenship is to change the law. Changing the law would require all members to agree.  The European Court of Justice has reiterated that the state withholds the right to confer citizenship, which means national identity forms the premises for becoming a European citizen.  It is a directive that retains the power to give citizenship at the power of the states that make up the European Union thus making it difficult for the EU citizenship to weaken or replace national citizenship. 

The background of EU citizenship is inferior to the core of national citizenship.  National citizenship is based on a rich and historically developed idea of membership in a nation.  Most of the citizens trace the movement of their ancestors who overcame difficulties to become part of the a given national community. For example, a typical French citizen can trace his family roots and associated France with strong cultural background. The attachment with France is too deep to the point that no matter where this goes he will consider himself first and foremost French and then the rest can follow.  In comparison, EU citizenship was inspired grant a number economic entitlements to make easy to integrate the European market.  EU citizen is anchored on recent policies that lacks the strong sentimental value that is associated with the cultural background and a sense of belonging that comes with the national citizenship.  It will eons before EU citizenship can claim a rich historical background and heritage.  By then national citizenship will still be older.   It is very difficult if not impossible for EU citizenship to weaken national citizenship. 

National citizenship has a very strong affective dimension that will take generations to dilute if it is possible.  The political entities that make up the European Union possess strong internal ties that might be from belonging to the same ethnocultural community or a community that is based on shared values.  The strong national identity that individuals attach to is affected by these values because they are a way of life.  The EU citizenship was proposed to help strength the European identify, but many years since its inception many Europeans still give preference to the national identity. Brexit is a good example that the European identity that was supposed to be promoted by the introduction of EU citizenship is yet to have a significant impact.  European citizenship is still viewed as form of advantage that might help when moving across Europe but not a strong sense of identity. EU citizenships is void of cultural, social and political ties that bind a community.  This form of criticism formed the popular discourse among scholars who felt the European Union would never surpass national identity and jurisdiction. 

An interesting counter put across by constructivists is that the lack of cultural, social and spiritual ties works to the advantage of the European Union citizenship.  It was an opportunity to create a political entity that will bring together people from diverse cultures and background under one entity. It was an opportunity for the EU to define the shared values that would create an opportunity for the concept of European Union citizenship to flourish.  Europe was set to become the state for an ambitious transnational political entity that is characterized by people connected by commitments and shared values. The ambitious perception of the constructivists is yet to be full realized. However, it is fair to say that progress has been made in strengthening EU citizenship. 

European Union citizenship has the potential to complement national citizenship in more than one way. First of all, EU citizenship was introduced as part of the European market integration exercise. It was meant to help citizen of the member states to move freely without restrictions making all parts of Europe accessible to citizens of the member states.  The European Union is the coming together of political entities to strengthen their trade stance and overcome the destructiveness that has marred Europe in the form of conflicts.  The EU is formed by member states who want to form a community of political entities that share common values. The same type of interaction occurs among the citizens of all the member states.  EU citizenship is meant to facilitate the formation of a community of people who interact freely and do not have restrictions that determine their choices.  It was meant to change the way people view and define a community.  Strengthening the EU should be perceived as a way of strengthening the member states.   It has facilitated the development of laws that make it easy for Europeans to move across countries without the worry of being charged exorbitant amounts for visa and other related fees.  

The advantages that come with EU citizenship complement the national citizenship in the sense that it allows freedom of movement with ease.  It is an opportunity for different groups from different member states to interact and exchange values.  The free horizontal interaction between citizens of different states is an opportunity to appreciate the work done by their respective states to make it possible. The fact that the EU citizenship is connected to national citizenship means one has to be careful avoid losing national citizenship. From this perspective, EU citizenship strives to establish a fruitful cooperation within the framework of the national citizenship without threatening to weaken it or replace it.  A cooperation can help avert the destructive tendencies that characterize the history of Europe. 

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The world has turned into a global village with the advancement of technology making it necessary for people and businesses to consider venturing beyond bonders. EU citizenship is a creation that fits the current changes in the world. It grants a form of interaction that emphasizes commitment and tolerance. It is an interaction that steers clear of politics and focuses on the exchange of ideas and values. The exposure of national citizens to practices and views from different parts of the continent helps increase the tolerance level across the continent. Furthermore, many citizens learn to appreciate their culture before moving to appreciate the different practices and culture all Europe. EU citizenship is form of interaction that sets the tone for peaceful coexistence without threatening the existence of the political entities. 

EU citizenship has helped make national citizenship better by influencing national citizenship policies positively(Faist, 2001; Davies and Rostek, 2007; Moravcsik, 2010).  Since national citizenship is connected to EU citizenship the policies that affect national citizenship.  The Member States recognize the decision that one country makes about national citizenship affects all the other states. Ireland, Germany and Spain are examples of countries that have made changes in their national citizenship policies and these changes have imposed upon all the member states.  One of the debates that has affected all the members states is whether nationals from third world countries who have stayed in Europe for a long time should be granted EU citizenship.  The pressure to standardize policies has led to many discussion and interpretations by the European Court of Justice.  All these are examples of how EU citizenship has provided the impetus needed to strengthen national citizenship policies and define the benefits that come with it. 

The peaceful coexistence of communities has been the message of liberalists who believe things could be solved through cooperation. The European Union citizenship has the potential to facilitate cosmopolitanism about justice.  The perception of cosmopolitanism about justice is to have a world where individuals are not restricted by national boundaries.  Nations can allow individuals to move freely provided adequate background checks to cover all the security risks(Sanders et al., 2012; Welge, 2015). European Union citizenship should be perceived in this way to dispel the thoughts that it can weaken national citizenship.  The thought of EU citizenship weakening national citizenship is far-fetched because of the existing political challenges.  The member states are doing everything to ensure their sovereignty is not undermined in any way. They are part of the European Union voluntarily and can pull out if they feel threatened. 

In conclusion, the EU citizenship does not have the potential to weaken or replace the national citizenship.  The strong affective dimension that drives patriotism and  the sense of belonging is weak in EU citizenship. National citizenship possesses a strong historical background that is characterized by sacrifices made to create a national community.  It would eons for EU citizenship to possess this sort of background. The political entities that make up the European Union would not allow the creation of a citizenship that would undermine national citizenship. They are part of the European Union because of the need to facilitate market integration and avoid unnecessary conflicts, but they can pull out if the European Union threatens their existence.  The EU citizenship complements the national citizenship by exposing national citizens to different cultures and practices and increasing the tolerance level in the continent(Shachar, 2009).   It makes it easy for nationals to move freely and feel protected when moving across Europe.  It creates a sense of gratitude towards the national government for making the effort to become part of the European Union.  European Union citizenship can never replace national citizenship due to the political challenges that would ensue. States are held together through political experiments that get renewed with very election. It would be difficult to maintain a political experiment that covers the entire Europe. 

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  1. Bauböck, R. (2014) ‘The Three Levels of Citizenship within the European Union’, German Law Journal, 15(5), pp. 751–763.
  2. Davies, G. and Rostek, K. (2007) ‘The impact of Union citizenship on national citizenship policies’, European Integration online Papers, 22, pp. 89–156. 
  3. Faist, T. (2001) ‘Social Citizenship in the European Union: Nested Membership’, JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 39(1), pp. 37–58. 
  4. Jacobs, F. G. (2007) ‘Citizenship of the European Union? A Legal Analysis’, European Law Journal, 13(5), pp. 591–610. 
  5. Kostakopoulou, D. (2008) ‘The evolution of European Union citizenship’, in European Political Science, pp. 285–295. 
  6. Maas, W., 2013. Multilevel Citizenship. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  7. Meehan, E. (1995) ‘Citizenship and the European Union’, Contemporary Politics, 1(2), pp. 5–14.
  8. Moravcsik, A. (2010) ‘The Politics of Citizenship in Europe’, Foreign Affairs, 89(2), pp. 162–163. 
  9. Sanders, D. et al. (2012) The Europeanization of National Polities?: Citizenship and Support in a Post-Enlargement Union, The Europeanization of National Polities?: Citizenship and Support in a Post-Enlargement Union.
  10. Shachar, A. (2009) ‘THE FUTURE OF NATIONAL CITIZENSHIP: GOING, GOING, GONE?’, University of Toronto Law Journal, 59(4), pp. 579–590. 
  11. Welge, R. (2015) ‘Union citizenship as demoi-cratic institution: increasing the EU’s subjective legitimacy through supranational citizenship?’, Journal of European Public Policy, 22(1), pp. 56–74.
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