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From an Ethics of Integration to an Ethics of Participation: Citizenship and the Future of the European Union

Millennium: A Journal of International Studies, Vol. 27, pp. 447-70, 1998

23 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2010  

Richard Bellamy

University College London - Department of Political Science; European University Institute

Alex Warleigh-Lack

University of Limerick

Date Written: 1998


Prevailing conceptions of political ethics largely centre on nation states and a world order composed of them. This article asks whether the European Union (EU) can be seen to challenge such conventional thinking. If, as is now commonly held, the EU has a polity-like structure which nonetheless lacks some of the features of conventional statehood, then our concepts of public ethics may need to be re-cast. We take citizenship as a case study in order to explore the kind of citizenship which is desirable or possible to exercise in a post-national context.

Beginning with an assessment of how far the EU currently constitutes a political community, we revisit the neofunctionalist attempt to explore the subject, in particular the link such scholars made between ideals and interests in the evolution of a 'European' polity. Neofunctionalist conceptualisations of the Union's development are contrasted with later models, which stress the non-state nature of the present and future EU. We argue that, whilst the present EU system is characterised by variation, diversity and complexity, and may never acquire Weberian statehood, it is nonetheless important to retain the ideals-interest model of actor motivation in order to understand how the Union may fulfil its declared ambition of becoming "closer to the citizen."

Three models of post-national citizenship are then examined in order to assess their compatibility with the emerging Europolity: cosmopolitan, communitarian and republican. The first two are criticised for simply being supra-national rather than post-national. The first assumes a political and normative consensus that is only likely to obtain within a European federal state. The second is usually employed to advocate either a European synthesis, whereby certain commonalties are fused within a common European identity, or a Union of Nations founded on a variable overlap of national identities. Again neither option seems either desirable or plausible. The third, by contrast, advocates the political negotiation of a variety of collective policies amongst a heterogeneous public. Citizenship here rests neither on entitlements stemming from a supposed normative European consensus, or membership of a common European culture, but from participation within a complex network of European political institutions.

We conclude that if the EU is developing into a multifaceted polity; it requires institutions and models of citizenship which are as sophisticated as those which are already advanced to account for EU decision making and the unification process itself.

Keywords: Citizenship, EU, Functionalism, Republicanism, Global Ethics

Suggested Citation

Bellamy, Richard and Warleigh-Lack, Alex, From an Ethics of Integration to an Ethics of Participation: Citizenship and the Future of the European Union (1998). Millennium: A Journal of International Studies, Vol. 27, pp. 447-70, 1998. Available at SSRN:

Richard Bellamy (Contact Author)

University College London - Department of Political Science ( email )

Gower Street
United Kingdom
020 7679 4980 (Phone)
020 7679 4969 (Fax)


European University Institute ( email )

Via dei Roccettini, 9
San Domenico di Fiesole (FI), Tuscany 50014


Alex Warleigh-Lack

University of Limerick ( email )

Castletroy, Co

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