EU Flag

Initiative to make EU citizenship permanent passes 70,000 signatures


European Union (EU) citizenship is conferred, with few exceptions, on all citizens of the 28 member states. It affords the right to free movement, settlement, employment and trade across the union, as well as protection under EU laws. However, its status in relation to national citizenship is an open legal question.

Discuss or suggest changes to this story

Talk

In March 2019, when the UK is scheduled to exit the bloc, around 65 million people are probably going to have their EU citizenship removed. A European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to the European Commission seeks to make sure no person will ever have to lose their EU citizenship, once gained, if their state leaves the union. This petition, calling for “Permanent European Union Citizenship,” was registered on July 23, 2018. Over 70,000 people have since signed it, with the UK, Romania and Belgium leading the pack.

Guy Verhofstadt, who is a Belgian Member of the European Parliament, leader of the ALDE group, advocate for a federal Europe and chief Brexit representative for the European Parliament, endorsed the petition, saying on Twitter on August 23: “EU citizenship does not replace our national citizenship, it is additional to it. If you believe in Churchill’s vision of a “common citizenship” uniting Europe, please sign.” He urged people to spread awareness of it, adding: “Let’s make this the most popular citizen’s initiative ever!”

Know a fact to enhance this story? You can edit it

Edit

An ECI is a lesser-known EU mechanism that allows citizens to directly propose policies or raise issues with the European Commission. After being registered, such an initiative has to gather at least 1 million statements of support from EU citizens, including certain quotas from at least a quarter of member countries, within a year of registration. If such a petition reaches its goal, the commission will decide whether to take action or not, which it must justify.

Flags in front of the European Commission building in Brussels (Author: Sébastien Bertrand; Copyright: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license; Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tiseb/4592786358/)
Flags in front of the European Commission building in Brussels (Author: Sébastien Bertrand; Copyright: Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license; Source: Flickr)

For now, the future remains uncertain.

The European Commission said of the initiative in a press release: “The main objective of the proposed initiative is to guarantee that European citizenship and its associated rights cannot be lost once they have been attained. … The Commission’s decision to register the Initiative concerns only the legal admissibility of the proposal. The Commission has not analysed the substance at this stage.”

In February, a judge in the Netherlands allowed a case brought by a group of Britons living in the country, arguing that EU citizenship may not be lost once attained (except through the loss of national citizenship), to proceed to the European Court of Justice, as reported by French news site The Connexion. (The state of the Netherlands appealed the referral. The appeal is ongoing.)

Discuss or suggest changes to this story

Talk

The EC’s decision, as well as that of the Netherlands judge, highlight the fact that the matter is unsettled, and that the argument that EU citizenship belongs directly to the individual (as opposed to being a relationship taking place strictly through the state) has at least some legal merit.

The decision, whether taken through the EU’s executive and legislative branches or through the judiciary, has become a pressing matter owing to Brexit. In this context, it will have tremendous impact on the lives and livelihoods of millions of Britons living in other EU countries, as well as EU citizens living in the UK. (See the press release by the lawyer for the group of Britons in the Dutch case here.)

The end result will certainly be increased clarity on what it means to be a citizen of the European Union.

  • Share
    Share
  • Sources

    European Citizens’ Initiative “Permanent European Union Citizenship,” main objectives (from http://ec.europa.eu/citizens-initiative/public/initiatives/ongoing/details/2018/000003): 

    EU citizens elect the European Parliament and participate in its work, thus exercising treaty rights, enhancing Union democracy, and reinforcing its citizenship. Noting the ECJ’s view of Union citizenship as a ‘fundamental status’ of nationals of Member States, and that Brexit will strip millions of EU citizens of this status and their vote in European elections, requests the Commission propose means to avoid risk of collective loss of EU citizenship and rights, and assure all EU citizens that, once attained, such status is permanent and their rights acquired.

Subscribe to our newsletter and be the first to collaborate on our developing articles:

WikiTribune Open menu Close Search Like Back Next Open menu Close menu Play video RSS Feed Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Reddit Follow us on Instagram Follow us on Youtube Connect with us on Linkedin Email us