In Search of European Citizenship

Yearbook of European Law (1998)

37 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2014

See all articles by Sionaidh Douglas-Scott

Sionaidh Douglas-Scott

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law; Queen Mary University of London

Date Written: 1998


Since Maastricht, EU law has been full of the rhetoric of citizenship, partly in an attempt to ensure a greater sense of belonging and participation of the individual. Yet European citizenship is a fragmented concept, difficult to present coherently, as well as not yet fully actualized. The relevant provisions in EU law lack transparency as they are spread throughout the treaties, secondary legislation, and case law, like a scattering of jigsaw pieces which at first glance do not seem capable of fitting together into any articulated notion of citizenship.

This wider range of provisions will be examined in the light of distinct conceptions of citizenship. In the myriad of definitions of citizenship, three in particular stand out and will be examined in detail: first, a private or passive conception, which focuses on individual rights and the ability to state preferences; secondly, on the other hand, the notion of active citizenship, a republican conception with its roots in Aristotle; thirdly, a more recent conception of social citizenship, which is currently seen by many as an essential element of European citizenship, although this may be the most difficult of the three to realize.

All three of these conceptions already have some recognition within the broader spectrum of citizenship in EU law. Their suitability for a Union citizenship of the twenty-first century will also be examined in the light of further requirements, namely: the realization that recognition of an equal membership of a culturally diverse community requires more than formal equality as well as the potential for multiple identities and citizenship in the EU. In order to satisfy the conditions of postnational membership it will be argued that the EU must shift from too great a reliance on the first, market conception of citizenship, already strongly realized in the body of EU law, to greater actualization of participatory and social citizenship. A vision of citizenship which conceives of individuals only as instruments of the market will not capture the hearts and minds of Europeans. Clearly, however, the political and social aspects of citizenship are difficult to resolve in the EU and raise threats to national sovereignty. This will take time to manage.

Keywords: EU law, citizenship, democracy, constitutional law, free movement law, transnational citizenship

Suggested Citation

Douglas-Scott, Sionaidh, In Search of European Citizenship (1998). Yearbook of European Law (1998). Available at SSRN:

Sionaidh Douglas-Scott (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Faculty of Law ( email )

St Cross Building
St Cross Road
Oxford, OX1 3UL
United Kingdom

Queen Mary University of London ( email )

School of Economics and Finance
Mile End Road
London, E1 4NS
United Kingdom

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