Before the European Elections, Let’s Talk about Us, the Citizens

A new event hosted by Università del Salento on April 5, 2019, Rectorate (Piazzetta Tancredi), open to the public:

 

CITIZENSHIP IN ACTION: IMPLEMENTING PARTICIPATORY DEMOCRACY IN THE EUROPEAN UNION

Ten years after the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon, the European Union is a democratic space, as its founding treaties officially recognize (art.10-11) TEU. Yet, many citizens don’t know their European civic rights and the potential of the Treaty of Lisbon – to enhance the role of the citizen at the center of the system – appears underexploited.

Which tools and channels can citizens activate to get involved in the European decisional process?

Could transparency in the EU legislative process be enhanced?

Is citizens’ legal protection guaranteed in any stage, as individuals and as members of communities and groups?

Are the core values of the Union guaranteed as well?

Can we really say that there is “no way back” on democratic guarantees?

 

These topics will be discussed with the audience by:

 

 

Onno Brower ( Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer Law Firm – Amsterdam/Brussels)

Antonio Caiola (European Parliament Legal Service – Luxembourg)

Emilio De Capitani (European Parliament, King’s College- Brussels)

Claudia Morini (Università del Salento)

 

Chair: Susanna Cafaro (Università del Salento)

 

 

 A summary will be posted shortly after!

 

 

Scientific Coordination: Susanna Cafaro, Emilio De Capitani

Identity, Nationality, Citizenship.

Who are we? 

Does our nationality or citizenship define us in some way?

people-and-the-planet_26412

There is much confusion around and it’s about time to clarify the meaning of some words much used and sometimes abused.

These three words communicate different concepts answering to three very different questions:

Who am I? (Identity)

Where are my roots? (Nationality)

To Which Community I belong? (Citizenship)

Of course, the most difficult question – and the most important – is the first one. And we are totally free to answer as we like and we feel. No objective data, no other person can answer for us. Our choices, our purpose in life, our beliefs, our personality traits are important clues, but ultimately we decide about their priority in defining who we are. Our nationality – our culture, religion, language – adds to our identity, but there is so much more at stake.

Nationality, so, is only a part of our identity. It is the place where we are born or the nationality of our parents. It is where we feel at home or where our roots are. It is our language, often our religion too. It is our food, our traditions. Could even be our football team. We can choose to identify totally with it or not, we can even feel disconnected, as it may happen in a dysfunctional family.

Citizenship, instead, is a political concept. It is the community we belong to, where we enjoy political rights, where we vote or participate in some way.

Citizenship can be acquired and can be lost. Multiple citizenships are possible.

Even if usually nationality and citizenship go together, it may not be so (as for Albert Einstein) or we could have a citizenship without a state, as it is the case for European citizenship, or a  citizenship beyond the borders, as Estonian e-citizenship. If nationality may be an accident, citizenship may be a choice.

In the end, as social animals, we humans need identity, roots, belonging. We also need to be aware that circumstances of our life do not define who we are, we do.

And we could also accept the idea that all these definitions can be dynamic: identity evolves as we grow and deepen our understanding of ourselves; nationality, as the tree’ s roots, expands as we learn more about our culture and its interconnectedness with other cultures; citizenship can change as we progress in our life path and I bet that we are going to experiment new more kind of citizenships, as legal creations giving us rights and access. We, humans, are a work in progress.

Whatever the nationality and the citizenship, the broader is the definition we give of ourselves, the larger is our circle of compassion. Defining ourselves as human beings mean we choose to feel connected to the human family.

As Einstein beautifully said, “Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind”

It happens when the three, identity, nationality and citizenship, just overlap and adhere to each other in the illusion of exclusivity and superiority.

We had that disease already. If we can keep that memory alive next generations will be immune.

Manifesto: “A genuine European Union to ensure welfare, security, and democracy”

We European citizens are worried and scared. The economic and financial crisis has impoverished many of us. Youth unemployment risks creating a lost generation. Inequality grows and social cohesion is in peril. The EU is surrounded by war and instability from Ukraine to Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. The flux of refugees and migrants has become a structural feature we must address together, in a human and forward-looking manner. In many Member states we witness authoritarian tendencies and the rise of nationalist and xenophobic forces. Democracy and the core values of the European modern civilization are under attack. The EU itself is questioned, although it ensured peace, democracy and welfare for decades.

We European citizens don’t want our national politicians to care only about their next local or national election. They ask for European solutions to European problems but then they act to render those solutions impossible or ineffective. They disregard sensible Commission proposals or fail to implement decisions already taken , including when agreed by all. They claim, one day, for Europe to do something and protest, the following day, Europe’s proposed actions. We ask national politicians and the media to stop depicting integration as a zero-sum game, thus pitting nations against one another. In an interdependent world no nation can satisfy all of its citizens’ basic needs and appeals for social justice. In this context, integration and supranational government is a positive-sum game. Our European social model based on liberal democracy and a social market economy can only survive in a multi-level framework of government, on the basis of the subsidiarity principle.

We European citizens are aware that globalization is transforming the world. We need a European government to foster our common values and contribute to the solution of the global problems threatening humanity. The world needs an outward-looking cosmopolitan Europe to help build a more effective and democratic global governance to cope with climate change, peace, global poverty, and the transition to an environmentally and socially sustainable economy.

We European citizens recognise the EU as an incomplete Res Publica. It has a ridiculous budget (0,9% of GDP) and no financial autonomy from Member states, while its current competences are out of date for what is necessary to successfully answer the challenges of the current crises. It has a federal like legislative, judiciary and central bank. But democracy is the possibility for citizens to choose the government and make it accountable. For the Union to work and be democratic its decisions, including budget, foreign and defence policy, and the reform of the Treaties, should primarily be taken by a qualified majority representing the majority will of European citizens and states. The Commission should evolve into a fully-fledged government, setting and promoting a political agenda legitimated through elections. European parties should present their candidates to the Presidency at the European election. The alternative is a directly elected President of the EU merging the Presidencies of the Commission and the European Council.

On 14 February 1984 the European Parliament adopted the Draft Treaty establishing the European Union, the so-called Spinelli Project, pointing towards a political union, which Member states disregarded. On 14 February 2017 we call upon the European Parliament, the only directly elected body of the EU, to take a new initiative to kick-start the EU on strengthened democratic basis. Talking about banking, fiscal, economic, energy, security, defence and political unions makes sense only within a genuine democratic European Union, with all those policies under a European government.

On 25 March 2017 the Heads of state and government will celebrate the Treaties of Rome establishing the European Economic Community and Euratom in 1957. We call upon them to match the vision of the Founders. They should open the way to the re-foundation of the EU on the basis of the European Parliament proposal, and immediately exploit all the Lisbon Treaties’ instruments to strengthen EU institutions and policies, especially on foreign and security, economic and social policies. We call upon the Europe’s youth, its civil society, workers, entrepreneurs, academia, local governments and European citizens to participate in the March for Europe in Rome on March 25. Together we shall give the political leaders the strength and courage to push forward the EU to a new beginning. European unity is key to solve our common problems, safeguard our values and ensure our welfare, security and democracy.

If you agree, please consider adding your signature to the ones by over 300 European intellectuals and academics. You can easily do it here.

You can also join us in Rome on March 25, the programme is here.

SUPRANATIONALITY IN PRACTICE: THE EUROPEAN CITIZENSHIP

The European Union’s founding Treaty (TEU) recalls and reaffirms the role of citizens in articles 9, 10 and 11 – provisions dedicated to its “democratic principles” – with the intent to establish a direct link between EU citizenship and democracy in the Union.

european-peopleThis need to look for (and find) legitimacy in citizenship – the dual legitimacy of the Union and of its member states – deserves to be analyzed as it is a peculiar expression of this supranational system. Although we find its most effective expression in the last edition of the EU Treaty, this quest for legitimacy is not new in the European integration process.

This is even more interesting as we consider that the lack of citizens’ ownership is often considered a cardinal sin in the process of European integration, whose elitist nature is often blamed.

We may find, instead, that citizens – as beneficiaries of rights as well as actors in democratic processes have always been important.

We can read in the article 2 of the Treaty establishing the European Union that:

“The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail.”

Even if the significance of the word “democracy” remains unspecified, we could give a first and provisional definition referring to the values listed in art.2 itself, to the constitutional principles common to the member states and to the content of the European Charter of fundamental rights.

In terms of political participation, the European notion of democracy gained significance through the direct election of the European Parliament since 1979. Then, with the creation of a European citizenship by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and, eventually, thanks to the inclusion in the latest version of the Treaty of a title entitled to the Union’s democratic principles: the art. 9-11.

“Article 9

In all its activities, the Union shall observe the principle of the equality of its citizens, who shall receive equal attention from its institutions, bodies, offices and agencies. Every national of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall be additional to and not replace national citizenship.

Article 10

  1. The functioning of the Union shall be founded on representative democracy.
  2. Citizens are directly represented at Union level in the European Parliament. Member States are represented in the European Council by their Heads of State or Government and in the Council by their governments, themselves democratically accountable either to their national Parliaments, or to their citizens.
  3. Every citizen shall have the right to participate in the democratic life of the Union. Decisions shall be taken as openly and as closely as possible to the citizen.
  4. Political parties at European level contribute to forming European political awareness and to expressing the will of citizens of the Union.

Article 11

  1. The institutions shall, by appropriate means, give citizens and representative associations the opportunity to make known and publicly exchange their views in all areas of Union action.

  2. The institutions shall maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with representative associations and civil society.

  3. The European Commission shall carry out broad consultations with parties concerned in order to ensure that the Union’s actions are coherent and transparent.

  4. Not less than one million citizens who are nationals of a significant number of Member States may take the initiative of inviting the European Commission, within the framework of its powers, to submit any appropriate proposal on matters where citizens consider that a legal act of the Union is required for the purpose of implementing the Treaties. (…)”

This trail was actually prepared by the ECJ case law.  The  starting point was the Van Gend en Loos case (1963). In it the European Courts defines – for the first time – the Community as “a new legal order of international law for the benefit of which the states have limited their sovereign rights, albeit within limited fields and the subjects of which comprise not only member states but also their nationals”. The Court quoted itself, using the same statement in other famous decisions such as Costa vs. ENEL (case 6/64), Simmenthal (case 106/77), Francovich (cases C-6/90 and C-9/90), opinions 1/91 (December 14th 1991) and 1/2009 (March 8th 2011).

After this first step came, one year later, the Costa vs ENEL case, where we read that “the member states have limited their sovereign rights, albeit within limited fields, and have thus created a body of law which binds both their nationals and themselves”. In this case the Court clarifies two cardinal principles – the direct application and the prevalence of European law over national law – both are grounded on this direct relation between the European legal order and the citizens which are direct beneficiaries of its norms

This direct relationship between the citizens and the supranational organization is not immediately qualified as a supranational citizenship – which will appear only in 1992 – and it never became a “supranational nationality”.

Since 1992, in fact, the European citizenship is nothing but a set of additional rights, a status added to national citizenships, barely visible if not in the passport format. Keystone of this status is the principle of non-discrimination, walkway between many European peoples and a common citizenship.

Splitting the two concepts of citizenship and nationality – the first existing at two different levels (national and European) the second limited to the national level –  is therefore a basic element of a clear political project.

The strictly legal content of the European citizenship is indisputable, comparable to that which characterized the notion of the Roman civitas.

The abstractness of a citizenship that is pure legal concept becomes a strong choice where it appears to be an alternative to the notion of nationality or people, terms which instead bring with them a rich substratum of history, culture, religion, language, identity and belonging.

And, in fact, the Union’s objective is not to eliminate the nationality or  the peoples of the member states. Article 1 TEU refers to an “ever closer union among the peoples of Europe”, article 3 specifies that the Union’s aim is promoting “peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples“, the same provision recalls the richness of its cultural and linguistic diversity.

So, we have a clear separation between the two notions: a European politeia/citizenship and national demos/people, the first including a number of different national demoi living together in peace, under a roof of common values, principles and rules.

The same distinction is very clear in the preamble of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, where we read:

“Conscious of its spiritual and moral heritage, the Union is founded on the indivisible, universal values of human dignity, freedom, equality and solidarity; it is based on the principles of democracy and the rule of law. It places the individual at the heart of its activities, by establishing the citizenship of the Union and by creating an area of freedom, security and justice.”

And

“The Union contributes to the preservation and to the development of these common values while respecting the diversity of the cultures and traditions of the peoples of Europe as well as the national identities of the Member States”. (Emphasis added)

Therefore, this European integration as a legal process – which coexists with strong national identities – is not necessarily a weakness of the system or the mark of an unfinished process, but it seems rather a choice.

Among the European countries there are strong elements of cultural commonality, especially when viewed in perspective, in the context of a globalized world. Europe’s common “spiritual and moral heritage” is not a rhetoric invention, but it was a clear choice to ground its legal order on a “citizenship without a people.”

This choice has some advantages: first, it does not conflict with the national identity recalled and guaranteed by the Treaty and it promotes an integration model based on the coexistence of diversities; second, it should respond better to the need to reassure the defenders of national sovereignty, reducing the risks of nationalist reactions or to the fear -even irrational- of losing national identities (even if, as Brexit is there to prove, it wasn’t enough). Finally, it prevents a possible European nationalism, a typical degenerative disease of nationality.

As we can see, it is a quite different model from the American melting pot.

This belonging to a polity, expressed in purely legal terms, is the real novelty of the European model, replicable in other geographical areas or global organizations – which could generate – one day – their one partial citizenships – and it opens the door to multiple and cumulative citizenships, not conflicting among each other, to communities partially overlapping.

Alongside this European polity – that performs the dual function of building an area of justice and rights and to legitimize the EU supranational institutions, there is another peculiarity of the European democracy: the absence of an explicit reference to collective self-government.

“Sovereignty belongs to the people” is a recurring formula in the states’ constitution and funding acts, so…how can possibly exist a democracy without a people? This requisite appears to be an essential and indispensable element of democracy – as also pointed out by the General Assembly of the United Nations (resolution no. 55/96 of 4 December 2000).

And here we see why this reference to the peoples of the Member States – alongside with national democracy – is also important: it becomes an implicit reference to national constitutions that recognize and codify these collective sovereignties.

The European polity thus integrates a second democratic level on top of the national one, the two being mutually invigorating. It’s no accident that democracy is an essential requirement for the accession to the Union (art.49TUE).

And yet, some people and some political figures still blame the Union for the persistence of a democratic deficit. We believe that this deficit is not in the EU institutional system but in some essential transmission belts required for a genuine democracy: European parties, a European political debate and – even more – a press reporting to citizens what happens in the European Parliament and the other bodies at work over the national level.

Another real gap is in the absence of awareness of many European citizens about their rights and their status in Europe, even if, once the mentioned tools in place, that would be maybe filled up.

So far, in vain  the European Commission launched communication campaigns designed to fill these gaps. The system is formally democratic, but essentially perceived as distant from its citizens.

Its democratic formula – being so disconnected from a sense of identity and belonging – is especially difficult to communicate. Even more difficult if press and political elites don’t give it a try.