Susanne Schmidt and Dorte Sindbjerg Martinsen (TransJudFare) Contribute to EUDO CITIZENSHIP Forum Debate “Should EU Citizenship be Duty-free?”

TransJudFare Project Leader Susanne Schmidt and Princial Investigator Dorte Sindbjerg Martinsen have contributed two opinion pieces on a EUDO CITIZENSHIP forum debate on the question of whether EU citizenship should be duty-free. Project TransJudFare deals with two challenges for welfare states in the (EU): the transnationalization of citizenship and welfare rights and the judicialization of politics. Thus, researchers can provide substantial expertise on the question of EU citizenship rights.

EUDO CITIZENSHIP is an observatory within the European Union Observatory on Democracy (EUDO) web platform hosted at the Robert Schuman Centre of the European University Institute in Florence and provides country profiles, databases, indicators, publications, news and commentaries on the issue of EU citizenship. In the commentary section, the platform holds so-called EUDO CITIZENSHIP Forum debates, which start with a kickoff contribution on a controversial question of general interest to academic and policy communities. New comments then engage with previous contributions and address the question asked in the forum title.

The kickoff contribution on the debate by Maurizio Ferrera (Università Statale di Milano) starts with the observation that while European citizens do know and value EU citizenship, there is also some disappointment about the latter’s actual effects in terms of integration and bonding. His contribution takes up the question of if and how the integrative functions of EU citizenship can be enhanced and whether the EU should ‘add stuff’ to the EU citizenship container. While he states that according to the Lisbon Treaty, EU citizenship is not ‘duty-free’, but comes with the duty of complying with EU law, he argues that further classical citizenship duties such as taxes would not contribute to stronger bonding and integration due to anti-tax sentiments among voters. Instead, he argues for an incremental increase of voluntary forms of duties such as a pan-European civil service.

In her response, Susanne Schmidt points out that Ferrera overlooks the largely judicial genesis of citizenship rights, which according to her is crucial for understanding the shortcomings of EU citizenship. As Court of Justice of the European Union case law takes generalised effect, the resulting policy is unable to cater equally well for the differences of national welfare systems. To strengthen the sense of belonging, EU citizenship rights are important, but in order to have societal backing they need to be politically shaped and granted, not judicially. Without entering the debate that Ferrera opens, sustainable progress towards a real European community is unlikely.

Dorte Sindbjerg Martinsen in her contribution takes up another issue raised by Ferrera, the tension between the ‘small constituency of mobile citizens’ and those who stay. Martinsen warns of the disruptive effects of a political discourse where EU mobile citizens are regarded as welfare seekers and social dumpers. While she agrees that the tension between ‘free movers’ and ‘stayers’ needs to be confronted, she sees neither time nor current political support for new pan European solutions to materialize. Rather, she calls for further research, for multilevel politics as well as multilevel accountability. Negative externalities should indeed be confronted politically, by adapting domestic politics as well as EU rules.