Transcript of "A more inclusive cizitenship open to immigrants - The role of civil society"
EESC Hearing 4 Sept.
A more inclusive cizitenship open to immigrants - The role of civil society
by Shannon Pfohman
Thank you for the invitation to speak today and to share ENAR’s perspective on this proposal. I
would like to make 4 points.
To review what it means to have European citizenship?
To provide ENAR’s opinion, namely, that we welcome the initiative to give EU citizenship
to long-term residents; It coincides with the fundamental idea behind the EU: equal
rights for all EU citizens. While this concept today is fairly well accepted as a necessity to
establishing a more prosperous and competitive Europe, deepening ties and developing
a more perfect union, etc., we are still far from realizing this objective.
And the last point is to provide an initial assessment and to raise questions. I imagine
this proposal will be a hard to sell to Member States, largely due to questions of
national finances and social protection schemes.
1. What does it mean to have European citizenship?
The Maastricht Treaty made access to citizenship of the Union wholly dependent on the rules
on acquisition, transmission and loss of its various Member States’ nationalities or citizenships
when it introduced the principle that “every person holding the nationality of a Member State
of the Union shall be a citizen of the Union. With this, came the following rights:
the right of free movement and residence within the Union (art. 8a)
the right of diplomatic protection outside the Union provided by any other Member
State (art. 8c)
rights of political participation: the right to vote and to be elected in the European
Parliament and in local elections (art. 8b)
the right to petition the Parliament or to appeal to its ombudsman (art. 8d)
In practice, EU citizenship means much more than this. Evidence shows that acquiring
citizenship at the national level fosters for the integration of immigrants. The same is true for
citizenship at the European level, and this is even more so for countries where naturalisation
laws are very complicated and long-winded or where dual citizenship is not recognised. In such
cases the possibility of acquiring European citizenship could be a first step towards the
promotion of full societal participation at the national level.
But so far, Member States have shown hesitancy as well as a lack of will. Of course, it is not
easy for 28 different procedures of admission to evolve into a single and common status of
“citizenship” at EU level. ENAR, nonetheless, regrets that so little progress has been made in
defining minimum standards for acquisition, transmission and loss of various national
citizenships and that attempts have not really been made to harmonise the different policies.
There continue to be major discrepancies in the way third country nationals can access
nationality and citizenship in the EU Member States. Reinforcing the link between “national
citizenship” and “rights” results in definitions of national citizenship framed in the basis of
ethnicity rather than on the length of duration of stay in a country or the extent an individual
contributes to society. This results in the effective limitation to third country nationals’ full
participation at the national level. It also fosters inequalities between residents and EU citizens
- to a different extent depending on the particular Member State.
European citizenship, as it is currently constructed, ironically only becomes relevant once a
person “migrates” (moves and resides within another Member State of the Union or outside
the Union). Third-country nationals, who constitute the vast majority of migrants living within
the Union, have remained by definition excluded from its framework.
Considering this, the proposed changes for EU citizenship sound excellent. The concept of
citizenship allows an analysis of the "extent to which immigrants and their descendants are
incorporated into receiving societies" (Bloemraad et al. 2008:154). It entails a tension between
inclusion and exclusion and incorporates the "role and power of the state and its institutional
apparatus to guarantee the right to have rights" (Somers 2006 in: Bloemraad et al. 2008:155).
So let us be clear today, we are talking about the right of third country nationals with long-term
residence to have rights that other EU nationals already enjoy.
2. ENAR’s opinion
"We need to understand more clearly that citizenship is not only a status of internal equality
and entitlements within a polity, but also enables mobility across international borders. The
core of external citizenship is an unconditional right to be readmitted to one's country of
nationality." (Bauböck 2009:300) So this also fosters migrants returning to their home
Considering the exclusion of about 20,000,000 (20 hundred thousand) current residents of the
EU from enjoying free mobility, the potential advantages that could come with this proposal
could reap amazing benefits for the whole of Europe.
In Sweden there is a three year waiting period applied to most TCNs, while EU Citizens and
Citizens of Norway and Iceland have no waiting period.
In Germany, if I understand it correctly, EU immigrants have local voting rights, TCNs do not.
The difference in terms of rights is probably not a question of discrimination as defined by
national law or EU law - although it could possibly provide an interesting test for the social
charter's equality paragraphs. Yet it is a question of unequal treatment.
In general, immigrants - even after becoming Citizens - have lower participation rates in
elections at least in Sweden and probably the EU. One reason is quite possibly the idea, or
unfortunately, the acceptance of the idea of inequality as being fundamental within the EU.
The signals sent by the EU promoting equality - particularly the Race Directive - have been very
important in providing an increased level of protection in all EU countries. Supporting the equal
voting rights in local elections would reinforce the message also in relation to democracy within
For this reason, ENAR welcomes the proposal to decouple EU citizenship from national
citizenship laws and to instead grant EU citizenship to long-term residents - but only under the
premise that this initiative would foster the full participation of Third Country Nationals in all
areas of society. This cannot just be a symbolic attempt at building community cohesion. I
would guess that the idea behind this conference is to realize this right in practice as well as in
The impact of migrants having options for obtaining permanent residence and options for
acquiring citizenship status over time clearly influences whether the person speaks of a “we”
versus a “them” in discussions about their locations of residence.
This would contribute to enabling more equal participation of third country nationals with longterm residence rights with EU citizens, thus coming closer to closing the divide between Third
Country nationals as de facto second class residents. This would also contribute to greater
representation of the residents in the EP - diversity.
3. Questions - Imagine if so-called third country nationals had European citizenship?
We would have free mobility within the EU? We would contribute to filling labour market gaps
in different member states due to the ease in mobility and work permits.
Would we be able to vote in local elections?
What about the children of immigrants? What would their status be if their parents became EU
citizens? We need merely consider the situation currently in some of the MS regarding the
children of migrants. Take the situation in Greece as an example. According to our Greek
members, up to 200.000 children and young adults born to immigrant parents are left
“stateless”, considered and treated as “aliens” with no official documentation and no rights at
all. Those children, born and/or raised in Greece, within the European Union, have no access to
formal citizenship, providing them with the basic means to get a sense of belonging and build a
life filled with rights and duties like regular people. Generation 2.0, a collective of young people
of both migrant and Greek background, stand up for the common belief that all of us, no matter
where we trace our origin, have the right to enjoy the rights of citizenship.
Would children of EU citizens born in the EU automatically be EU citizens? Jus Soli – law of the
Aleksander Hemon, a Bosnian refugee who made a name for himself as an American or bicultural author, commented on his own immigrant experience to Chicago in 1992, "You don't
have to have grown up in this neighborhood to claim it as your own. My neighbors who were
here before me don't say, 'You have to thank us for letting you in.'" By contrast to typical
responses encountered in Europe, he explains, "Your identity [in the US] is not legitimized by
blood and national identity. It's more complicated than that. It's legitimized by participation in
society. I like that because I want to participate. I do not want to be assimilated. I want to be an
American as a matter of choice and not unconditionally." (Kaminski 2008:D7). The ability to
participate fully in society, to choose to be American, to naturalize and enjoy greater rights,
freedoms and mobility were deemed positively, as humans should not be limited in their
flexibility and rights to choose for themselves where to live, what language to speak at home,
etc. Freedom of choice, after all, is a fundamental right that everyone ought to enjoy and which
needs to be protected.
Evidence suggests that when migrants know from the start that a receiving context enables
long-term residence as an option with possibilities for naturalisation and citizenship, there is a
stronger willingness to learn the host society language, become economically self-sufficient,
become politically active, etc. While in contrast, those effectively limited in their social, political
and economic integration and denied equal participation in all areas of society as a result of
restrictive citizenship laws and structural constraints, are less likely to feel a strong sense of
belonging in the receiving society context.