Sovereignty at the Boundaries of the Polity

This paper discusses the topic of rights to political participation in the EU context, focusing on concepts such as sovereignty and citizenship and the inherent tension between nation-state and EU level competence.

ARENA Working Paper 16/2002 (html)

Jo Shaw

A paradox faces all polities: so long as the criterion for allocating political rights of participation has been nationality and so long as the gateways to nationality have been restricted by states exercising national sovereignty, many who live and perhaps indeed are born within the boundaries of any given polity have been unable to participate politically. This paper takes the case of EU electoral rights to examine points of contestation around concepts of sovereignty and power in the EU context. Sovereignty is the subject of contestation in the EU context, not only amongst academics but also between politicians and opinion-formers in the Member States and those in the EU institutions. The key questions seem to be: “what is the European Union?”; “what might it become?”; and “how does it impact upon the Member States and national sovereignty?”. The paper identifies and elaborates three important sets of contestations over citizenship and electoral rights involving both EU migrants and third country nationals resident in the Member States. The presentation highlights the role of debates on sovereignty and related concepts of competence, powers and even subsidiarity in the construction of a vital element of the EU polity: the boundaries of its suffrage.

Tags: sovereignty, immigration policy, legitimacy, democracy
Published Nov. 9, 2010 10:52 AM