Article by: Eni Mazniku
As a Public Law master student from Albania, a country who hasn’t even achieved the candidate status of the European Union, you may logically ask what are my relations to European Citizenship if I am not legally a European citizen? Well, before attending а training on European Citizenship, I also shared the same doubts. I also thought that citizens of non EU countries were excluded from the benefits of such a desirable status, but fortunately the situation is more positive than it seems.
The event’s topic was European Citizenship in Youth Work and it was conceived as an intensive 7 days training course. It was organized due to the cooperation of Council of Europe and European Commission and was held in Antalya, Turkey at the beginning of April 2013. The participant were civil society activists and future politicians, chosen from different countries from Europe as Albania, Italy, Romania, Turkey, Lithuania, Spain, Bosnia, Germany, Azerbaijan. Before the training, my knowledge on this matter was not very clear and sufficient since nowadays it is not a very-widely elaborated matter. After the training I strongly believe that I and the participants have more detailed information on European citizenship and its legal, social, cultural, religious background.
Before trying to explain my positive attitude towards this topic, I need to emphasize the difference between the concepts of European Union citizenship and European citizenship. EU’s citizenship is mainly a legal status, which was regulated by the Maastricht Treaty since 1992. European Union’s citizenship is supplementary to national citizenship and affords rights such as the right to vote in European elections, the right to free movement, settlement and employment across the EU, and the right to consular protection from other EU states’ embassies when a person’s country of citizenship does not maintain an embassy or consulate in the country they need protection.
On the other hand, European citizenship is mainly a social and cultural status that is not regulated by a specific Treaty or law. This concept goes beyond the defined territory of the European Union and is extended even in the countries that are not part of the EU but feel that they share common values. European citizens are free to think and act like EU’s citizens, because nothing prohibits them to share such core values as human rights, tolerance, respect for diversity, interest on European culture and others alike.
There are two institutions, the European Union and the Council of Europe (that has a wider membership), which give the possibility to feel European, even to people who may not fulfill the legal criteria of the EU’s membership. Council of Europe offices around the Europe’s territory try to accelerate the democratization process in several countries (not necessarily EU member states) through different project on economy, institutions, health, education, youth and to provide a high standard of living to anyone living in these areas. Starting from our daily experience, we know that many countries in Europe are not EU members, but those are not less European than the actual EU states. So as we all can see, it is totally possible to feel “European / Européenne / Europäisch / Europeo” even if your passport is not blue with 12 golden stars.
From a humanitarian perspective, being a European citizen is a state of strongly believing in fundamental rights and freedoms such as: the right to live, the right to personal life and family, the right to have a due process of law, the right to be treated without discrimination, freedom of movement, freedom of choosing your own education, freedom of establishment etc.
Being a European citizen may mean that you enjoy the music of Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, Strauss, but at the same time of HIM, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Muse, Coldplay or U2. In literary terms, being a European citizen may mean that you are an avid reader of Homer, Dante Alighieri, William Shakespeare, George Orwell, Victor Hugo etc.
And what if you were born in Italy, by a Spanish mother and French father, your girlfriend/boyfriend is German and you live in Portugal?
The list of perspectives is infinite and very subjective, too. There is no unique definition of European citizenship but there are some common values that people need too share in order to feel European rather than American or Asiatic. In this moment a question comes to my mind: May a person from USA, Asia, Africa, Australia feel European? I don’t have a definite answer for that yet, maybe yes as long as that person shares the same values. I will let you think about that and reach a conclusion.