A more inclusive cizitenship open to immigrants - The role of civil society


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Presentation by Shannon Pfohman (Deputy Director – Policy - ENAR) on the occasion of the EESC hearing on 'A more inclusive citizenship open to immigrants' - Brussels, 4 September 2013

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A more inclusive cizitenship open to immigrants - The role of civil society

  1. 1. 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) 1
  2. 2.  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. 2
  3. 3. 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 countries. 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. 3
  4. 4. 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 the EU. 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 theory. 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 4
  5. 5. 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 soil? 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. 5