The key question that we pose in this paper is whether European citizenship is a form of citizenship; in short, whether it makes sense to say that ‘European citizenship’ is a citizenship status. This may seem a redundant question. What could European citizenship be but citizenship? Actually, it seems to us the question, far from being banal, goes to the heart of the matter of the ongoing existential crisis of the European Union; in particular because it opens up the rather black box of the authority of the European Union and of European Union law. The paper starts by considering what citizenship is by means of reconstructing the concept in European democratic constitutional law. In so doing, it focuses in particular on the connection between the regulatory ideal of the Social and Democratic Rechtsstaat and citizenship, while adding some reflections on the way in which the relationship between citizenship and other personal statuses should be conceptualised. Then we move into the analysis of European citizenship, with a view to determine whether it is or it is not a form of citizenship. When doing so, we radically alter the time framework and the substantive issues by reference to which European citizenship tends to be analysed.
Firstly, we consider the evolution of personal status in European law not since 1992 (when the formal status European citizenship was introduced in the Treaties) but since the very creation of the Communities. If European law was said to constitute a new legal order which granted rights to individuals (as is usually assumed to be the case in European studies), European law could not but contain a personal status since its very creation, a status which we characterise as proto-citizenship to clearly distinguish it from the formally affirmed European citizenship status since the entry into force of the Maastricht Treaty. Setting European citizenship in a longer temporal perspective leads us to relativize the transcendence of the formal enshrinement of citizenship. In particular, we show that the present shape of European citizenship was actually more influenced by the new understanding of the internal market and by asymmetric economic and monetary union than by the enshrinement of citizenship in the Treaty of Maastricht.
Secondly, we consider the substantive content of both proto-citizenship and formal European citizenship, paying special attention to the interplay of civic, political and socio-economic rights, and the implications this has for collective rights and collective goods. This allows us to engage with the actual implications of European citizenship practice, transcending a purely formalistic analysis which does not go beyond the literal tenor of the law and of the rulings of the European Court of Justice. In particular, this allows us to argue that while proto-European citizenship was largely in line with the understanding of citizenship in postwar democratic constitutional law, formal European citizenship contributed to lock in a rather different understanding of membership, resulting from the redefinition of the goal and purpose of the European Union and of European integration. In other words, we claim that proto-European-citizenship was a personal status that complemented, without aiming at substituting national citizenships; while European citizenship not only facilitates the prevalence of European over national law but also redefines what citizenship (political subjectivity) is and what it entails.
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