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Citizenship in the constitution of the European Union: rhetoric or reality?

Lyons, Carole



Richard Bellamy


This paper will explore the nature of European Union citizenship in the context of the constitutionalisation1 of the EC/EU. The concept was formally introduced by the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and presents many problems in its current state. Under the TEU, citizenship of the EU was granted to all nationals of EU member state countries, introducing changes to the EC Treaty which now contains a revised Article 8 detailing the beneficiaries and rights of citizenship. This is an important symbolic development in the evolving constitution of the Union; a formal recognition of the extra-economic character of the EC/EU. 'But an examination of its substance reveals EU citizenship to be disappointingly feeble and gives rise to questions concerning its nature and limits. Is it an inalienable right granted to all existing and future member state nationals? Could an EU citizen be deprived of this status by a state's choosing to end its membership of the Union? The relationship between nationality and citizenship is also crucial. As member states have different methods of determining nationality it could mean, for example, that an Irish American may be able to avail herself of EU citizenship but a Turkish national who has lived all her life in Germany may not. Since there are approximately 10-15 million legally settled non-nationals in the EU, the fact that they should be further disenfranchised is of concern. The relationship between citizens’ rights and human right s has been of interest since the drafting of constitutions in the late 18th century; it is indicative that this problem also remains unresolved in relation to this new citizenship which emerged from Maastricht. Citizenship, nationality, and human rights are all crucial to the future development of the Union. They are the weapons in the larger battle which has shaped and will continue to determine the personality of that Union; the division between member state sovereignty and a supranational Union. This paper will locate the issues in this overall context and examine the particular difficulties which they raise.


LYONS, C. 1996. Citizenship in the constitution of the European Union: rhetoric or reality? In Bellamy, R. (ed.) Constitutionalism, democracy and sovereignty: American and European perspectives. Aldershot: Avebury, pages 96-110.

Publication Date Mar 13, 1996
Deposit Date May 14, 2021
Publicly Available Date May 14, 2021
Pages 96-110
Series Title Avebury series in philosophy
Series ISSN 0955-9582
Book Title Constitutionalism, democracy and sovereignty: American and European perspectives
ISBN 9781859722640; 1859722644
Keywords European Union; Citizenship; Constitution; Nationality; Citizenship; Duties; Rights
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