Living the common home

Progressing for united identity in diversity

The juridical term “European citizenship” has been shaped a little at a time, following the pace of the “Common Home” building. Member States’ increased economic, political and institutional cooperation starting from the EEC to the present EU, led to a “dual citizenship”, i.e. national and European. Rather than replacing one another, these are mutually strengthened, thus jointly contributing to define EU identity. The enforcement of the Lisbon Treaty (December 2009), which includes the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, put into writing the civil, political, economic and social rights of European citizens and EU population. Historical development. Already in 1957 the Treaty of Rome, providing for EEC (European Economic Community) accreditation, acknowledged the freedom of movement for workers within the territories of all six founding States. Such limitation to free movement linked to professional motivations, was lifted in 1986 with the so-called Single Act, the first true EEC Treaty reform. Since then, the free circulation of all citizens is one of the pillars of EU legislation. With the European Union Treaty (known as the Maastricht Treaty) adopted in 1992, the existence of “European citizenship” was officially recognized, thus constituting “complementary citizenship” for the simple fact that it adds on to the national one. Thus European Treaties – ratified by all Member States – whose “protection” and defense is entrusted to the EU Commission, establish that Estonian or German, Irish or Maltese, French or even Romanian citizens are at the same time also European citizens, thus enjoying the rights put down in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.Citizenship rights. The basic rights of European citizens – invoked after the recent expulsion of Roma from France, which EU Commission vice-President Vivian Reding, on behalf of the Commission, described as a violation of EU law – include first of all the right of the free movement and residence throughout the Union; active and passive electoral capacity in European Parliament elections and in the municipal elections in the Member State of residence; the right to protection by the diplomatic or consular authorities of other Member States when in a non-EU Member State; the right to petition the European Parliament and the right to apply to the European Ombudsman; right to access to EU. Free movement and residence rights may be limited by Member States for reasons related to public order, public safety and health; such restrictions can be imposed only on the basis of personal behavior and not motivated by “general prevention” nor on the basis of “nationality, race or ethnic origin”, as recalled in a recent European Parliament Resolution (September 9).Dignity and freedom. With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, that fully recognizes the Charter of Fundamental Rights, European citizens’ rights have been more accurately defined. Such rights must be promoted and respected by Member States, by EU Institutions in Strasbourg and Brussels, while the Court of Justice in Luxembourg is called to oversee on the respect of the principles stipulated in the Charter (only Great Britain, Poland and the Czech Republic availed themselves of the “opt out” clause, thus renouncing to integrate the Charter of Rights within their national legislations). The document – drawn up in Nice in 2000 and which has finally become binding – consists of six parts, which provide for an equal number of “fundamental rights”. Dignity (articles 1-5) provides for the right to life and human integrity, the ban on torture, maltreatment and/or inhuman and debasing infliction of pain. The articles on freedom (6-19) refer to a broad-ranging carnet. These include, among others, the respect of private and family life, confidentiality, the right to marry and create a family, freedom of conscience and religion and freedom of information and opinion.Other chapters. Equality (articles 20 to 26) is “within the law” and encompasses non-discrimination, the respect of cultural, religious and language diversity, along with gender equality, the rights of minors, the disabled and the elderly. A large chapter is devoted to solidarity (27-38), which refers to the rights of workers, environmental protection and consumer rights. These are followed by the above-mentioned citizenship rights (39-46), (such as movement, voting, eligibility…). Finally, the Charter’s articles on justice (47-50) stipulate presumption of innocence and the right to legal defense.

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