Skip to main content

What kind of Citizenship is the EU creating?

Gareth Davies
Wednesday, November 27, 2019, 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm

ABSTRACT | Union Citizenship creates a status shared by all citizens of the Member States, and it is tempting to think that it therefore helps to unite and bring them together. It would seem, at first glance, to be a tool of integration. Yet if we look at how Union Citizenship rights operate in practice they seem above all to allow for, or encourage, new divisions. Firstly, in promoting entry and exit from Member States Union Citizenship facilitates sorting, whereby individuals of a similar outlook or similar preferences cluster together. Over time, a regime of free movement may increase differences between Member States rather than reduce them, as Union Citizens leave states where they feel marginalised or uncomfortable, and move to those where their views, politics, or lifestyle are more majoritarian. Second, much Citizenship law aims at protecting the autonomy of migrant Union Citizens from states, and in practice EU law consistently emphasises the specialness and the difference of migrants, and the extra rights that they enjoy. This creates a legal picture of the migrant as a structural outsider rather than a person to be integrated – a sort of privileged cosmopolitan who must be accepted within states, without having to fully conform to their norms. Both of these aspects of EU law have potential political consequences – for the governability of Europe, and for the politics of free movement. There are, admittedly, many doubts and provisos that need to be aired – whether sorting happens in practice, and whether mobile Citizens attract the image suggested here will be influenced by many factors other than legal doctrine, and it is an open empirical question whether either will occur. Moreover, the two kinds of divisions are, to some extent, opposing ones – sorting relies precisely on integration. Nevertheless, as lawyers, it is worth unpacking the messages that the law sends about what a Union Citizen is, and asking whether these messages will, or can, find echoes in society, and where we might expect those echoes to be heard.


GARETH DAVIES | Gareth Davies was a barrister in London before being a University Lecturer at the University of Groningen (2000-2007) and then moving to Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (2007 to the present). In 2006 he was an Emile Noel Fellow at New York University Law School, and in 2014 a Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow at the EUI. Gareth Davies also teaches at Amsterdam University College. He is the co-author, with Damian Chalmers and Giorgio Monti of EU Law (3rd edn, Cambridge University Press, 2014). He is one of the leaders of the European Constitutionalism theme of ACCESS Europe, an Amsterdam inter-university European studies research platform.