The Interpretation of European Union Citizenship

AuthorJo Shaw
Publication Date01 May 1998
The Interpretation of European Union Citizenship
Jo Shaw*
This paper presents a reconsideration of the internal and external dynamics of the
evolving concept of European Union (‘Union’) citizenship and proposes a new
interpretation based on a reading of citizenship theory and (European) integration
theory. It has a limited ambition to establish a frame of analysis, and offers little
empirical exposition to exemplify the points made.
The paper opens with a brief
recapitulation of the reasons for the emergence of the topic of citizenship as a
preoccupation for the late twentieth century European Community (‘EC’) and
European Union (‘EU’), which offers an abbreviated summary of the condition of
‘Europe’ and the condition of ‘citizenship’. The next section completes the review
of the current status quo with an audit of the ‘resources’
of citizenship, as they
currently exist in the EU.
The interpretative part of the paper follows, with an
outline of some of the main approaches to understanding EU citizenship so far
The Modern Law Review Limited 1998 (MLR 61:3, May). Published by Blackwell Publishers,
108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA. 293
* Department of Law, University of Leeds.
This paper draws upon a larger project entitled ‘Citizenship of the Union: Towards Post-National
Membership’, Collected Courses of the Academy of European Law 1995, vol VI, no 1 (The Hague: Kluwer
Law International, 1998, forthcoming); also published as Harvard Jean Monnet Working Paper 6/97.
Permission to republish extracts is acknowledged with thanks. I am grateful to Joseph Weiler for first
suggesting that I should work in this field; his own work on Union citizenship has been a consistent source
of ideas and intellectual provocation. An earlier version of this paper was presented at ESRC Workshop on
Legal Theory of the European Union, University of Edinburgh, April 1997; I am grateful to participants for
their comments and criticisms. I am also especially grateful to Antje Wiener for her comments on this and
other papers on citizenship. The usual caveat applies.
1 More detailed empirical exemplification of many of the arguments made in this paper can be found in:
J. Shaw, Citizenship of the Union: Towards Post-National Membership, Harvard Jean Monnet
Working Paper 6/97; J. Shaw, ‘The Many Pasts and Futures of Citizenship in the European Union’,
(1997) 22 ELRev 554; ‘European Union Citizenship: The IGC and Beyond’ (1997) 3 EPL 413; J.
Shaw, ‘Social Policy and Citizenship in the European Union’, paper presented at the European
Community Studies Association, Biennial International Conference, Seattle, May–June 1997.
2 A term borrowed from A. Wiener, Citizenship Practice: Building Institutions of a Non-State (Boulder,
Col: Westview, 1997).
3 For fuller coverage, see inter alia A. Rosas and E. Antola (eds) A Citizens’ Europe. In Search of a
New Order (London: Sage, 1995); C. Closa, ‘The concept of citizenship in the Treaty on European
Union’ (1992) 29 Common Market Law Review 1137; J. d’Oliveira, ‘European Citizenship: Its
Meaning, its Potential’ in Dehousse (ed), Europe after Maastricht. An Ever Closer Union? (Munich:
Law Books in Europe, 1994); D. O’Keeffe, ‘Union Citizenship’, and C. Closa, ‘Citizenship of the
Union and Nationality of Member States’ in D. O’Keeffe and P. Twomey (eds), Legal Issues of the
Maastricht Treaty (London: Chancery/Wiley, 1994); S. O’Leary, The Evolving Concept of
Community Citizenship (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1996); E. Marias (ed), European
Citizenship (Maastricht: European Institute of Public Administration, 1994); S. Hall, Nationality,
Migration Rights and Citizenship of the Union (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1995).
developed. The following section carries on the theme of interpretation by
suggesting a different way of presenting Union citizenship, which is based on
identifying the space within which Union citizenship is simultaneously both
constituted from outside, and self-constituting, as a form of ‘post-national’ political
membership which represents a vital building block in the ongoing process of
polity-formation within Europe. The use of the term ‘post-national’ in this context
is intended primarily to signify that whatever form ‘membership’ of the EU may
take in the future, it is likely to evolve in ways which do not replicate the
experience of state-based national citizenship.
The specific focus of the argument developed is upon identifying the interaction
between a narrow and formal legal concept of citizenship (as it is presently defined
in Article 8 EC) and a broader notion of ‘membership’ comprising constitutional,
political and socio-economic elements in a multilevel (non-state) polity which is
developing under post-national conditions involving fractured (state and
individual) identities. It is in this space that we can find a meaningful concept of
Union citizenship. It is argued that the outcome of the interaction between the
formal and broader notions of citizenship at EU level must comprise both a notion
of identity which enables the members of the ‘community’ of the EU to identify
each other within the political processes of European integration, and a framework
of rights which constitute the citizen as an individual subject of law. Crucially, it
should offer the tools to construct a contextualised notion of citizenship which is
sensitive to the political, socio-economic, historical and geographical conditions of
European integration and to broader understandings of relations between
individuals, communities and the organs of political power and authority. In
suggesting the importance of a form of post-national membership for the EU, I
acknowledge that the contours of any such concept are so far very uncertain. In
particular, it is as yet much easier to identify this form of membership as an ideal
type, which I shall term ‘an active conception of social citizenship based on a
politically defined community’, since the empirical evidence derivable from the
corpus of EU laws and policies so far provides no conclusive indication that such a
post-national condition has as yet come into being. It remains important for the
interpretation proposed in this paper to keep under review both the normative and
descriptive elements of the citizenship project.
The emergence of a citizenship agenda in the European Union
There are a number of reasons for the emergence of citizenship as a preoccupation
for the post-Maastricht EU. One group of reasons relates to the internal dynamics
of the Union and the process of integration, and to the political, legal, economic
and social forces which have shaped the emergent EU polity; the other group of
reasons links to broader political or geo-political conditions external to the EU, and
to the interpretation and articulation of the implications of these conditions in
citizenship terms.
4 For other uses of postnationalism: D. Curtin, Postnational Democracy. The European Union in search
of a political philosophy (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1997); R. Bellamy and D.
Castiglione, ‘The Normative Challenge of a European Polity: Cosmopolitan and Communitarian
Models Compared, Criticised and Combined’ in A. Føllerdal and P. Koslowski (eds), Democracy and
the EU (Berlin: Springer Verlag, 1997); Y. Soysal, Limits of Citizenship. Migrants and Postnational
Membership in Europe (Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1994).
The Modern Law Review [Vol. 61
294 The Modern Law Review Limited 1998

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