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.
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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. In the first 8 days of it being open for online endorsement, it has been signed by over 69,000 people.
Guy Verhofstadt, who is an MEP, leader of the ALDE group and chief Brexit representative for the European Parliament, endorsed the petition, saying of it on Twitter: ”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 information about it, adding: ”Let’s make this the most popular citizen’s initiative ever!”.
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An ECI is a lesser-known EU mechanism that allows citizens to directly propose policies and 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.