European Identity over National Identity:
The Implication of Lisbon Treaty on European Citizenry
By Austen Uche Uwosomah
Erasmus Mundus Master: Media systems & Journalism within globalization
Audiences and Identities in Europe
Instructor: Prof. Dr. Uwe Hasebrink
Winter Term, University of Hamburg
28th February 2010.
One of the best ways to view the emerging European public spheres from citizens' perspective is to
reflect on the rejection of the constitution of European Union by the Dutch and French citizens in
2005. In that saga, we witness the power of citizenry and audience participation in a scheme that
dashed the expectations of those who pushed for a more viable democratic Europe via a consolidated
constitution. That realization brought the EU governing institution to realize that apathy to Europe’s
integration from EU citizens was strong and it would be better to the circumvent the collective
cooperation of citizens from member states if they are to forge ahead with pre intended goals for the
European Union. This is even so because the advocates of the constitutional rejection only considered
stalling the constitution because of euroscepticisms perceived from national biases.
Consequent upon that, it became necessary for EU governance machinery to circumvent the collective
EU citizens’ democratic rights for the constitution to be brought to fruition following the Lisbon
Treaty of 2007. The Treaty of Lisbon forces some of the laws and conventions of EU states at national
level to be submerged by the constituted common European laws and conventions.
This development being exactly what the constitution had entrenched that made it fail in getting
ratification earlier, bring the various peoples in EU member states together into one common people
away from their national identities with additional common citizenship privileged with legally binding
fundamental rights and under common continental binding laws and customs (Bonde, 2008). As a
consequence, for the EU citizenry, their European identity is given more edge over their national
identity. Against this backdrop, this paper will put forth the argument that the introduction of Lisbon
Treaty has favored support for European integration and this will subsequently decline
euroscepticisms among EU citizens and make them less skeptic to matters arising on Europe’s
integration policies from the quarters of EU governance.
Why European Union Needed a Constitution:
The question of why Europe needed a constitution needs to be examined at the beginning of this paper
so that I can establish the logic of this paper and for me to be able to reiterate the consequence of
citizens’ hostility to Europe’s integration which necessitated the constitution’s rejection before its
latter fruition when it was reintroduced by treaty reform of 2007.
The conceptualization of the European Constitution by its founders was a push to cater for two
objectives vis-à-vis “(i) immediate political goals, and (ii) dilemmas stemming from irreversible
decisions of the past” (Habermas, 2001). In the first case, the constitution is needed to provide the key
to conserving the democratic achievements of the European nation-state. These achievements include
not only formal guarantees of civil rights, but levels of social welfare, education and leisure that are
the precondition of both an effective private autonomy and of democratic citizenship (Habermas,
2001). The idea of the constitution therefore was to circumvent deadlocks of intergovernmental
bargaining and to prepare institutional reform through inter-institutional and inter-parliamentary
deliberations (IGC, 2007).
The Laeken summit of December 2001 initiated the European constitution making. It was to innovate
a design from Treaty reform to constitution making (Bonde, 2008). The Laeken Convention’s
aspiration was to elaborate a new legitimacy basis of a democratically consolidated EU signified by
the promulgation of a constitution (IGC, 2007). The document was meant to be a generous offer to
enhance EU’s citizens’ rights and participation (Vetters, et al, 2006). Furthermore, as a political
collectivity, Europe cannot take hold of the consciousness of its sovereign member nations simply in
the shape of symbolic crystallization of a supra political body; the continental nations of Europe
having been able to establish peacekeeping and economic integration needed to be sustained via
principled classical international laws in order for the fabrics that hold European states together to be
consolidated. Thus, transforming those classical laws into some sort of cosmopolitan constitutional
principles exemplifies the rationale for developing the constitution for European Union (Waterfield
and Helm, 2007).
Besides the foregoing, the challenges brought about by the differences in the way the continental
nations of Europe justified humanitarian intervention which resulted to precepts of traditional power
politics during the Kosovo war encouraged the rationale for a constitution capable of binding EU
member states to speaking with one voice in matters of foreign and security policy, and bringing a
stronger influence of its own to bear on NATO operations and UN decisions (Habermas, 2001). The
strengthening of an economic unified Europe was the surest path to growth and welfare since the Coal
and Steel Community of 1951 and the subsequent formation of the European Economic Community of
1958, as more and more countries became integrated through the free exchange of people, goods,
services and capital between them (a process brought to bear by the single market and single currency
adoption) was yet another goal of the constitution (Habermas, 2001).
Ultimately, in a constantly changing, ever more interconnected world, Europe is grappling with new
issues such as globalization, demographic shifts, climate change, and new security threats, and need
for sustainable energy sources (Bonde, 2008); these are the challenges facing Europe in the 21st
century. Moreover, borders count for very little in the light of these challenges and the EU countries
cannot meet them alone (Habermas, 2001). By acting as one, Europe can deliver results and respond to
these concerns that means rethinking some of the ground rules for working together. Consequent upon
that, the rationale of a constitution provides mutual grounds for legitimation for making allowances for
conscious compliance from the sovereign member states to sustain an ever-closer Union (BBC Online,
Role of National Bias and Euroscepticism in the Rejection of EU Constitution in 2005
Since the institution of EU integration by the founding member countries, there has been one of
euroscepticism among citizens of the various states towards EU’s socio-political proposals. A case of
recall is the EU constitution proposal. The responses from the Dutch and French citizens towards the
constitution in 2005 brought to light the gulf between the EU elitist governance and the European
citizens (Vetters, et al, 2006). Although the constitution for Europe was designed as an extended
problem-solving framework for the protection of fundamental rights and the promotion of
transnational citizenship with generous offer to enhance citizens’ rights and participation, it came as a
surprise when it failed to get consensus ratification. As it turned out, the constitution failed to get the
support from the Netherlands and France.
The two countries had various arguments for not ratifying the constitution, however the summary of
all contention among others include Brussels bureaucracy, the threat to liberal values and ultra-liberal
economic approaches, pessimism and gloom about EU’s economic prospects, and the belief that
much-cherished social and national models will come under threat (Mulvey, 2005; BBC News, 2005).
Nonetheless, the kind of concerns and excuses that was put forward by the Dutch and French which
led to the first failure of the constitution stemmed from their sceptical attitudes towards European
integration. They fit into the category of Europeans described by Bernard Weels as adamant
eurosceptics and critical Europeans (Weels, 2006). As a consequence, rejection of the constitution was
due to their eurosceptical disposition to EU integration which stems from perceived national
disaffections. Thus, one potential explanation for increasing euroscepticism is that it stems from
dissatisfaction with the way the national government is functioning in general (McLaren, 2007).
Nevertheless, as a socio-political construct, putting the constitution into the laps of EU citizens for
general consensus was a conscientious effort by the EU governance to allow collective democratic
approval of EU citizens manifest. The EU governing machinery had not anticipated the rejection from
any quarter. One unique consequence of the constitution debate is that in ideal terms, the constitution
making was fixed up to come across the emerging polity of EU’s social constituency. This social
constituency transformed into plural voices and debates that spread across the national public and
media spheres of EU member nations. For the first an EU related issue was debated by cross section of
a Europe-wide public thereby establishing a European public sphere of some sorts.
The way the discussions were handled by European citizens across Europe showed that EU citizens,
could converge into a Europe-wide public discussion forum to give their opinions on the constitution
albeit favourably or against the constitution’s adoption. It is remarkable that the EU constitution
marked one of the biggest Europe-wide audiences’ convergences among citizens and media in the EU
landscape to during the ratification process. Consequent upon the ratification failure, the EU
government had employed tactical political strategy of Treaty reform for bringing into fruition the EU
constitution following the complete ratification of Lisbon Treaty at the turn of 2008.
The Treaty of Lisbon (2009)
In the words of Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, former French President and President of the
Constitutional Convention, and Giuliano Amato, former Italian prime minister: “the Treaty of Lisbon
is the same as the rejected constitution. Only the format has been changed to avoid referendums”
(Giscard d'Estaing, 2007; Amato, 2007 cited in BBC Online, 2007). These two political juggernauts
of the EU government say so due to the contextualization of the treaty. Against this backdrop, the
rationale for the treaty of Lisbon, among other things, not only aimed at amending earlier treaties,
notably the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community on the
one hand, but as well on the other hand, aimed to reinstate the EU constitution via treaty reform.
The Treaty of Lisbon entered into force on 01 December 2009 and sets out new rules for the
political, economic and social changes for the EU landscape with intended adherence to live up to
the hopes and expectations of the European citizenry.
The Treaty of Lisbon defines what the EU multilevel government can and cannot do, and what
means it can use. It alters the structure of the EU’s institutions and how they work. As a result, the
EU is more democratic by giving more powers to the European Parliament than ever before. The
Parliament contains representatives of the Union’s citizens. What is referred to as “high
representatives’ (see Articles 189-190 T EC as amended by the Treaty of the Nice).This development
makes the EU institution more accountable to the EU citizens (Eur-Lex, 2008).
The foregoing statement notwithstanding, the focal point of my paper does not centre on whether the
Treaty makes EU governance more accountable to the EU people. Rather, it is on the precept that the
Treaty of Lisbon forces some of the laws and conventions of EU states at national level to be
submerged by the constituted common European laws and conventions. This development was
exactly what the constitution had entrenched that made it fail in getting ratification earlier. However,
the Treaty of Lisbon reenacted it via treaty reform bringing it into force. The Treaty interpreted
common grounds for EU as “samarbejde (a cooperation), lighed (equality) and has become
ligestilling (equal status). The equality status makes the various peoples in EU member landscape
joined together into one common people with common identity. This new common people, as
mentioned earlier, acquires common additional citizenship with common legally binding
fundamental rights (Bonde, 2008)
Under the Treaty of Lisbon, international agreements can be concluded by majority decisions where
the internal rules can be decided by majority vote. The agreements will be binding on a member
state, even if its representatives voted against the contents of an agreement. Agreements entered into
by the new EU will also take precedence over the member states’ own laws and agreements. The
member states at national levels will lose the power to preside over laws and agreement taken up by
the EU. Such laws and agreement among others include;
(1) On common borders: that the Union will have common external borders controlled by
everything from common border troops to common rules on immigration and asylum and who may
enter and settle in EU states.
(ii) On security and crime control: that there will be common armed forces, military cooperation,
common intelligence service (Sirene), common defense policy, common weapons market, common
military agency (already in place since June 2004) and joint police cooperation (Europol).
(iii) On common penal code: EU citizens that breach EU laws will be prosecuted under a common
EU penal code on the basis of lay down sentences for breaches of all EU laws. Member states will
adopt the laws with penalties for infringement so that citizens may be punished for infringing
EU laws at national level.
Under the European Arrest Warrant some member states may be forced by EU to extradite a citizen
to other for something that was not a crime in his or her country of origin.
(iv) On common fundamental rights: the supreme interpreter of fundamental rights will now be the
EU. The Union will accede to the European Convention on Human Rights, just as its member states
have already done and if there is conflict between national and EU principles, the EU’s shall take
priority. Thus the EU will thus get real powers over its citizens.
The glaring implication of the foregoing new laws and agreement is that the EU will unite citizens of
it states into a centripetal community of transnational people who will be bound by a common
yearnings and aspirations. Without mincing words I think in time to come, there will tend to be a
prevalence of a common superstructure citizenship over and above national citizenships. I assert this
because going by the new EU formula as encapsulated in the Treaty of Lisbon, if there is a clash
between EU citizenship and national citizenship on matters of judiciary precedency, it is the EU’s
rules that will apply.
Furthermore, with the new EU formula as encapsulated in the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU parliament
members from respective member states will no longer be representatives of the peoples of the
member states, but of the collective citizens of the European Union (EurActiv, 2007). As corollary, the
new citizens of the EU have an obligation of obedience to EU’s laws and loyalty to the EU institutions
and authority (Bonde. 2008). It is against this backdrop, I argue that EU citizen will in future be more
responsive to taking active part in discussing EU policies more than ever before. This is even so if we
consider that national policies in the EU states are being gradually tailored to resemble EU policies.
The EU citizens have no alternative now but to worry about EU plans and policies knowing that they
are as accountable to EU’s governance as they are to their national governance. Consequent upon that,
I aver that in the future, EU citizenry within European Union landscape will begin to justify their
identity of EU citizenship and less of their national citizenry prototype Identity.
Clash of identities: European Identity versus National Identity:
The new phase in the definition of European citizenship as being defined in the Lisbon Treaty
provides a central gateway in creating citizens’ participation in EU affairs. This ensures in two ways.
Through representative democracy by way of citizens’ votes of ‘national Parliamentarians’ and
through citizenry initiative in policy proposals by way of ‘collection of one million votes’. Although
taking effect in 2014, the enhancement of civil rights of the EU citizens provides grounds for
European population to be active in the activities of EU governance. If this occurs, likely that the EU
citizens’ interests in EU official affairs will increase and this would make them more knowledgeable
on EU maters arising and this could reduce their hostility to EU political decisions.
In the light of the foregoing, it has been argued that part of the explanation for differences in levels of
support for European integration can be found in differences in cognitive mobilization and lack of
knowledge of the EU. Those who are more cognitively mobilized that are those who are capable of
digesting complex political events are likely to be less fearful of the EU simply as a result of more
exposure to it (Inglehart, 1970, cited in McLaren, 2007). Moreover, empirical analyses have indeed
indicated that those with knowledge about the EU are indeed more positive about European integration
(Inglehart, 1970; Janssen, 1991; Karp et al., 2003 see McLaren, 2007).
If citizens are increasingly skeptical of and dissatisfied with their national institutions, the same must
be even more applicable in the case of the EU, where institutions are perceived as distant and difficult
to understand. However, the apathy towards integration is not fully widespread among a cross section
of EU citizens from a random position. For further understanding of why Europeans might be so
protective of their national identities, we can turn to social identity theory for a conclusion. This will
point to the fact that identity is important for the human psyche and that people become protective of
their identity when it faces encroachment (Monroe et al., 2000). E
Europeans are still very proud of their nationalities and still strongly identify themselves in their
nationalities (McLaren, 2006). It should be noted that there are different elements to consider when it
comes to concerns related to national identity. While there are very large numbers of Europeans who
are afraid of the loss of their national identities in the European integration process, many of these
individuals still favor the project nonetheless (McLaren, 2004). Hooghe and Marks (2004) posit that
those who conceptualize their identities exclusively in terms of national identity are likely to be most
hostile to the European integration project, Europeans who think of themselves either in terms of some
form of multiple identities that includes an element of supranationalism or in entirely supranational
terms will be the most favorable to European integration (Hooghe & Marks, 2004).
General malaise over the functioning of EU government is a major cause of eurosceptism. There are
Europeans who do not know enough about the EU and the integration project to make an informed
decision as to whether they support it. In the absence of such knowledge, then, how is it that people
come to have opinions about the EU or integration? An answer to this is that most eurosceptic citizens
(using France as example) rely on feelings about their national governments and use it against EU
governance. Those who are dissatisfied with the way democracy is functioning in their own countries
are argued to project this dissatisfaction onto the EU (Anderson, 1998 cited in McLaren, 2007). This
relationship is especially powerful among those with little political knowledge (who thus need to rely
on non-EU-related cues) but also holds for those who pass a political knowledge test (Karp et al., 2003
cited in McLaren, 2007).
We have seen in the recent times across the EU landscape how EU citizens from new member states
are exhibiting strong European identity. This is conspicuous if we consider the way citizens from new
entrant from the east and central European countries are permeating into other more economic viable
EU countries such as Sweden, Denmark, UK, Germany, Austria, France and others for economic gain
due to advantage of their EU identity is an evidence of a towering strong European identity over
national ones. These peoples are described as EU citizens who exhibit strong European identity and
not categorized as eurosceptics (Weels, 2006). Furthermore, it is not farfetched to say that EU citizens
of this nature are beginning to justify their identity of EU citizenship and less of their national
citizenry prototype Identity. I say this because most of them when they are outside Europe continent,
often say they are from the EU rather than naming the country where they are originally from.
Moreover, every international airport within EU landscape admits people from EU member states as
one identity regardless of their nationalities. Thus, at every port of entry into any EU member state, we
witness the supplanting of EU identity over national identity.
The Future of European Identity and Euroscepticism:
As explained earlier, the introduction of Lisbon Treaty has favored support for European integration
and this will subsequently decline euroscepticisms among EU citizens and make them less skeptic to
matters arising on Europe’s integration policies from the quarters of EU governance. This paper will
forthwith explain this argument. The Lisbon Treaty enhances the common citizenship status with more
the privileges albeit subject to EU controls. The growth of interest in the EU affairs would increase
Europhile feeling among EU citizenry across Europe. Subsequently, the value on EU identity over
national identity may become higher. Likely, this will in turn tone down eurosceptic feelings among
Scholars and commentators on European audience studies have averred that no meaningful European
public sphere or audience has emerged since the emergence of EU. However, it will not be right to
suggest that there have not been forums where EU citizens come together to discus EU matters. A case
in mind is the constitutional debate that got wide patronage in the discussion by EU citizens across
Europe. Just because the deliberations were tabled within the hemispheres of national public spheres,
the status of public opinion discussion in a Europe-wide basis thus failed to be accorded to those
Europeans who took part in that episodic debate. So a European public sphere has been said not to be
able to thrive. I think the solution to this lies in the Lisbon Treaty as I will explain below.
With the effort by EU government to amalgamate more states into EU albeit giving them right of leave
from the EU at will, the decision to remain an EU state is the portion of respective EU states. EU
citizens can now pressure their national government to pull out from EU, the Treaty of Lisbon makes
this clear. So it is left for countries to decide on whether the benefit of remaining an EU state is worth
leaving behind. However, with the fruition of Lisbon Treaty, the EU governing is enhancing the
growth of Europe-wide citizens’ participation and interest in EU affairs. The Treaty’s encapsulation of
laws and conventions that take precedency over member states’ vis-à-vis the exercise of citizens’ civil
rights by way of voting in and out their ‘national Parliamentarians’ and policy proposal initiative right
by way of collecting one million votes, is an assuring grounds for hope.
McLaren, (2007) argues that “feelings of distrust for EU institutions are likely to explain some of the
euroscepticism that exists in the modern days while trusting the EU institutions explain why there
would be more positive feelings about the integration”. People who are better aware of what is going
on in EU offices are likely to be less fearful of the EU simply as a result of being more exposed to it.
Since the public opinion of the European audiences is centripetal to European Union, the Treaty of
Lisbon has helped to pay a great deal of attention to what is going on in Brussels. By so doing,
political and civil participation from the media and citizens across EU landscape is likely to increase.
I am of the view that this development will cause more citizens to be more exposred to EU and
thereby increasing their awareness and reduce hostility and eurosceptic feelings. I strongly think the
large camp of eurosceptics and critical individuals of EU integration will now get more information
about the EU to enable them understand EU better without recourse to their national biases or
As the EU gradually progresses to becoming United States of Europe, the emerging European public
sphere that is yet sectoral, highly selective and socially stratified will blossomed into a Euro-wide
community with less eurosceptic dispositions towards EU integration. The Lisbon Treaty has
cemented the integration of Europe. European citizens are now aware and conscious of their EU
identity and they can no longer feel apathetic or eurosceptic to the phenomenon of EU which they are
getting to understand better since the Lisbon Treaty.
The fruition of Lisbon Treaty being exactly what the constitution had entrenched albeit failing in
getting ratification, will bring the various peoples in EU member states together into one common
people away from their national identities with additional common citizenship privileged and legally
binding fundamental rights and under common continental binding laws and customs (Bonde, 2008).
As a consequence, for the EU citizenry, their European identity is given more edge over their
national identity. Particularly, I consider the fact the Treaty cites that under the European Arrest
Warrant some member states may be forced by EU to extradite a citizen to other states for
prosecution for something that was not a crime in his or her country of origin. Against this backdrop,
this paper will put forth the argument that the introduction of Lisbon Treaty would favour support for
European integration and this could subsequently decline euroscepticisms among EU citizens and
make them less skeptic to matters arising on Europe’s integration policies from the quarters of EU
The Treaty of Lisbon has implication on the emerging European public sphere. This implication
suggests that the EU citizenry will converge on a Europe-wide basis to discus EU affairs as they will
in future be more responsive to understanding EU policies more than ever before. This is even so if we
consider that national policies in the EU states are being gradually tailored to resemble EU policies.
The EU citizens have no alternative now but to worry about EU plans and policies knowing that they
are as accountable to EU’s governance as they are to their national. The drawbacks of national
logistics, which have hampered EU publics from blossoming, may still exist, but they could be
minimized by the Lisbon Treaty which explains to the citizens how EU governance works.
EU population can still have elections, but they cannot use votes to change legislation in the many
areas where the Union is given power to decide. Though possible, it is a very long process to change
an EU law under the Lisbon Treaty. The power to change an EU law now, demands great efforts from
a lot of citizens in a lot of countries. That is, it requires a transnational team work. No gain denying the
possibility for a vibrant Europe-wide audience coming together to influence and checkmate via
collective discussion. With the foregoing assumptions, I will say that EU peoples will now be more
conscious and interested in the EU workings as they are now aware that via Lisbon Treaty that their
citizenship as EU members stretches beyond their national geographical landscape. Subsequently, this
will reduce their hostility and fear of EU integration. Consequently, the feelings of eurosceptism will
thaw to a large extent.
In conclusion, I propose that in the future, there would be more general Europhile feeling and positive
attitude toward EU integration and less eurosceptic and apathy toward the EU among Europe-wide
publics. This is the hope of the EU government and this is why the institution spends huge funds on
opinion researches concerning The EU. It is the hope of the EU public relations unit that future
investigations on flash Eurobarometer would reveal more positive feelings toward EU. I think this is a
possible phenomenon in the future
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