Development of citizenship


Citizenship is membership in a political community (originally a city or town but now usually a country) and carries with it rights to political participation; a person having such membership is a citizen. It is largely coterminous with nationality, although it is possible to have a nationality without being a citizen (i.e., be legally subject to a state and entitled to its protection without having rights of political participation in it); it is also possible to have political rights without being a national of a state. In most nations, a non-citizen is a non-national and called either a foreigner or an alien.

Citizenship, which is explained above, is the political rights of an individual within a society. Thus, you can have a citizenship from one country and be a national of another country. One example might be as follows: A Cuban-American might be considered a national of Cuba due to his being born there, but he could also become an American citizen through naturalization. Nationality most often derives from place of birth and, in some cases, ethnicity. Citizenship derives from a legal relationship with a state. Citizenship can be lost, as in denaturalization, and gained, as in naturalization.

The term Active Citizenship implies working towards the betterment of one's community through economic participation, public service, volunteer work, and other such efforts to improve life for all citizens. In this vein, schools in England provide lessons in citizenship. In Wales the model used is Personal and Social Education. Jurgen Habermas emphasizes in his 'notes on a post-secular society' that both religious and secular mentalities must be open to a complementary learning process if we are to balance shared citizenship and cultural difference.

Development of citizenship

The first form of citizenship is based on the way people lived in the ancient Greek times, in small-scale organic communities of the polis. In these days citizenship could not be seen as a public matter, separated from the private life of the individual person. The obligations of citizenship were deeply connected into one’s everyday life in the polis. To be truly human, one had to be an active citizen to the community, which Aristotle has famously expressed: “To take no part in the running of the community's affairs is to be either a beast or a god!” This form of citizenship was based on obligations of citizens towards the community, rather than rights given to the citizens of the community. This was not a problem because they all had such a strong affinity with the polis; their own destiny and the destiny of the community were strongly linked.

This was not all; citizens of the polis saw the obligations of the community as an opportunity to be virtuous, it was their primary source of honour and respect. In Athens, citizens were both ruler and ruled, important political and judicial offices were rotated and all citizens had the right to speak and vote in the political assembly. An important aspect of polis citizenship was however; the exclusivity. The citizenship in ancient Greece and Rome, as well as in cities that practiced citizenship in the Middle Ages, was very exclusive and inequality of status was widely accepted. Those who were citizens had a much higher status than those who could not obtain the status of a citizen, such as women, slaves or ‘barbarians’. Women were considered not to be rationally capable of political participation for example (although some, most prominently Plato, disagreed).

There were also other methods used to determine whether someone could be a citizen or not, at certain times this had to do with wealth (the amount of taxes one paid), political participation, heritage (both parents had to be born in the polis). In the times of the Roman Empire the polis citizenship changed its form: the reach of citizenship was expanded from the small scale communities throughout the empire. The Romans found that granting citizenship to people from all over the empire was legitimating for Roman rule over conquered areas. They also found that taxes were more easily collected and the need for expensive military power in those areas with citizenship was reduced. Citizenship during the Roman era was no longer a status of political agency; it had been reduced to a judicial safeguard and the expression of rule and law. After the collapse of the Roman Empire the importance of citizenship became even smaller. During the Middle Ages, the search for personal salvation had replaced the pursuit of honour through the exercise of citizenship. The church has replaced the political community as focus for moral guidance and loyalty.


Supranational citizenship

In recent years, some intergovernmental organizations have extended the concept and terminology associated with citizenship to the international level, where it is applied to the totality of the citizens of their constituent countries combined. Two examples are given below, of citizenship in the European Union, and also of citizenship within the Commonwealth of Nations. As of 2005, citizenship at this level is a secondary concept, with a weaker status than national citizenship.

Today, it seems imperative that the fissures encouraged by collective identities be off-set with ethical standards of respectful engagement with others. What the global community seems to lack is an ethics of comity which would encourage mutual respect and collaboration. We live in a world which is complex and multitudinous in spirit and action but it does not need to be chaotic or confused. The practices of comity permit complexity without it becoming destructive and provide a spontaneous order in which differences can be symbiotic.

The Ethics of Comity

"to go together"

European Union (EU) citizenship

The Maastricht Treaty introduced the concept of European citizenship. This citizenship flows from national citizenship — one holds the nationality of a EU member state and as a result becomes a "citizen of the Union" in addition. EU citizenship offers certain rights and privileges within the EU; in many areas EU citizens have the same or similar rights as native citizens in member states. Such rights granted to EU citizens include:

The right of residence connotes not only the right of abode, but also the right to apply to work in any position (including national civil services with the exception of sensitive positions such as defence). EU member states also use a common passport design, burgundy coloured, with the name of the member state, national seal, and the title "European Union" (or its translation), and most also use a common format for their driving licences in order to simplify their use within the whole EU.

2013 and 2014 was dedicated to the European Year of Citizens, aiming to help Europeans discover the benefits EU citizenship offers them as private individuals, consumers, residents, students or workers. Throughout the year dialogue between all levels of government, civil society and businesses will be encouraged by conferences and events around Europe, in order to discuss EU rights and build up the vision of how the EU should be in 2020.

According to the 2010 EU Citizenship Report, citizens are not always fully aware of their rights, like the right to move and reside freely in other EU countries. All 500 million Europeans (and by extension the European economy) can benefit from these rights, if they are aware of them and able to use them. The intention of the European Year of Citizens is to help EU citizens to make informed decisions about how to make the most of their rights. Among the rights highlighted during the European Year of Citizens are:

  • The right to move and reside freely within the EU and not to be discriminated against on grounds of your nationality. The freedom of movement is one of the four basic rights of the EU (freedom of capital, services, goods and people).

  • The right to vote and stand as a candidate in elections. When living in another EU country EU citizens have the right to vote and stand in municipal and European elections held in that country, under the same conditions as nationals.

  • The right to petition, which allows citizens to raise concerns or complaints with the European Parliament.

  • The right to complain to the Ombudsman against an EU institution or body.

  • The right to consular protection for unrepresented EU citizens. An EU citizen has the right to turn to any embassy or consulate of any EU country if in need of help in a non-EU country. Assistance may be provided in situations including death, accident, illness, arrest, detention or violent crime and repartition.

  • The right to ask the European Commission to propose new legislation. The European Citizens Initiative must be signed by at least 1 million citizens from at least one quarter of EU countries.

Other cross-border rights include:

  • Accessing social security. When moving within the EU, you only pay social security contributions in one country at a time, even if you are working in more than one.

  • Getting healthcare abroad. Under EU law, you can seek medical treatment in another EU country and may be entitled to have the costs reimbursed by your national health insurer.

  • Studying abroad. As an EU national, you have the right to study in any EU country under the same conditions as nationals of that country.

  • Online shopping. You are protected by EU law when shopping online in Europe, not least through the European Consumer Centers Network.

  • Passenger rights. If you have problems with international rail travel or flights departing from the EU or arriving in the EU with an EU carrier from a non-EU country, you may be entitled to a refund and possibly also compensation.

  • Cheaper mobile phone calls. When you use your mobile phone in another EU country, there is a limit on what your operator can charge you.

  • Safe, secure and affordable energy. As a consumer, you are now better protected and have the right to choose the best gas and electricity deal for you, thanks to EU rules.


European Year of EU citizens:

Help and advices to EU citizens: