The European Convention and the Relative Rights of Resident Aliens
European University Institute; European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW)
Ulster University - Transitional Justice Institute
European Law Journal, Vol. 5, No. 4, 1999
In this article we explore the nature of relative and absolute human rights, the fundamental principles of liberal democracy on which those rights are based, and the threats posed to those principles by the traditional understanding of how membership should be decided in a community.
Where relative rights like the right to residential stability and the right to political action are linked exclusively to nationality, and where nationality is defined in an exclusionary or restrictive manner (e.g. it is difficult for long term residents to acquire that nationality), then serious problems emerge for liberal democratic theory. If human rights are to be given genuine protection then the importance of the social and cultural background in which one lives and develops ones personality must be acknowledged. Where one's personal development is linked closely to the social and cultural background, then it would be an affront to liberal democracy to remove someone from that society, or deny them the ability to shape that society's political destiny in cooperation with others.
To avoid the taint of illegitimacy states should either recognise that these rights should not be limited just to nationals, or recognise a right to naturalisation to the benefit of integrated aliens. We demonstrate how the European Convention on Human Rights shares this concern.
Keywords: human rights, aliens, nationality, residence, political rights
JEL Classification: K10
Date posted: February 22, 2006