To Be Or Not To Be?

Article published on Jan. 27, 2003
community published
Article published on Jan. 27, 2003

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

The creation of the notion of European citizenship raises the age old dilemma, which comes first the chicken or the egg?

The direction that the EU has taken in recent years has incorporated a social dynamic to the European project. This can be seen by the establishment of the concept of citizenship of the Union in the 1992 Treaty of European Union (the Maastricht Treaty). Civic virtue and more traditional interpretations of the idea of citizenship is perhaps too much to ask for from such a broad spectrum of people, arguably the first step towards citizenship is the creation of a common identity.

The creation of the notion of European citizenship raises the age old dilemma, which comes first the chicken or the egg? To confer the term European citizen upon its members has received criticism as an empty gesture lacking as anything other than a noun. In the same way, to focus upon creating an identity may take considerable time and effort and prove ineffective without a common concept or term to unify towards.

Identity whether European or not is based around the characteristics that make us who we are, therefore history is the key factor in the development of identity. In the European sphere this idea in itself creates problems, as it requires the development of a common European history. Within Europe it is the ability to look beyond the histories of our individual states to the key events that have impacted upon us as Europeans. But is this a fair request how can we successfully retain our national identities? For the notion of citizenship to flourish the two ideas (national and European citizenship) must function in simultaneously without infringing upon each other.

In its inception, the Union was centred around the idea of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe, there was no mention or indication of the creation of one people. As a result of this states demonstrate a reluctance to subscribe to any major attempts to infringe upon or replicate the rights of citizens at a national level.

Perhaps it is the term citizenship that has been instrumental in the dissent around this issue. To rid ourselves of the term citizenship would perhaps reduce the prejudices, whilst still allowing for the advancement of this idea. Granting the right to citizenship is arguably contrary to the whole European project. It is a very state orientated idea that is bound to arouse considerable suspicion and pessimism, perhaps we should be taking a different approach rather than trying to shoehorn European concepts into the models provided by states. Education and the changing of attitudes towards the EU must occur before any of the European citizens feel that they either deserve or want this title.