New ELF Publication on European Citizenship Out Now!


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From a European point of view, one of the most relevant citizens’ rights was the right to vote and to stand as a candidate in any EU country during the elections to the European Parliament. Approximately 427 million citizens from all over the European Union were invited to elect their European representatives from 23-26 May 2019. In doing so, they actively took part in the democratic life of the European Union. Among them were also EU citizens who voted in their country of residence rather than their native country, and EU citizens being eligible for vote on national lists in countries other than their own.

Whilst not the only concrete example of the application of citizenship rights, but arguably the most timely, European elections once again underline the rele­vance of such rights for citizens of the Union. Europeans are entitled to a number of rights, which go far beyond election cycles. The crucial question is, however, whether the opportunities of EU citizenship in other areas are only relevant to EU citizens who leave their country of origin. Or are they also important to the static population and therefore to all Europeans alike. This publication and its contributors argue for an inclusive understanding of European citizenship, applying to all Europeans regardless of their mobility status.

While the existence of EU citizenship is undisputed, we must ask ourselves: Do we really know what European citizenship is and do we make the best use of our rights? While in 2018 seven out of ten Europeans felt that they were citizens of the European Union, only a slight majority knew about their citizenship rights and one third would even have liked to know more. The knowledge is there, but not necessarily the competencies for its application. Referring back to the intro­ductory example, this years’ European elections – with a turnout of 50.66%, the highest in 25 years – are a beacon of hope in that regard.

“To be or not to be – EU Citizenship” aims to shed light on the rights of EU citizenship and to fill the gap between knowledge and application. It presents a number of concrete issues and perspectives around EU citizenship, which are of interest for liberal and non-liberal readers alike. Lying at the heart of the Euro­pean project, EU citizenship is far more than European identity and does not merely limit itself to free movement either. It is a legal status, enshrined in the European Treaties. EU citizenship has evolved over time and confers a set of civil, social, political and economic (fundamental) rights upon citizens of the EU. The concept of active citizenship is moreover a call to action to citizens of the EU to get involved and take on responsibilities.

This publication aims to introduce these rights and opportunities, present some practical examples of application and give recommendations on how to make even better use of our rights and advance active citizenship. At a time when the liberal international order and, with it, European politics, politicians and political parties are increasingly questioned or even under threat, an active European citizenry is more necessary than ever. Active citizens as members of a political community are vital for all levels of a functioning democracy. In the aftermath of the First World War, the German Liberal Friedrich Nau­mann created a new approach to democratic development with the establish­ment in 1918 of his school of citizenship (“Staatsbürgerschule”) in Berlin. He believed that for a fledging democratic system to succeed, we need citizens who understand the procedures, believe in democratic rules and become personally involved. Driven by the emerging contrast between the emperor’s subjects and the new self-assured and active democratic citizens at that time, today Naumann, among others, is still a source of inspiration for civic education.

More than 100 years later, the topic is far from being less relevant. The present publication is the end of a one-year journey on the topic of EU citizenship, aiming at highlighting the multi-faceted concept of citizenship and its rights for a non-le­gal audience. While the 2019 European elections were one undisputed highlight of that journey, Brexit was another major, if less pleasant event involving citizen­ship questions. Expected in 2019, it has not yet taken place at the time of writing. These examples highlight that we can predict the future only to a certain extent, but we can at least prepare ourselves by deepening our knowledge and acquiring the competencies to make the best use of citizenship rights.


Enjoy the read!


Carmen Descamps

European Affairs Manager




Promoting citizenship: (Re-)Connecting Europe to its citizens











On 26 May 2019, more than 400 Million EU citizens were invited to exercise their democratic right to vote in elections to the European Parliament. Politics as usual? Only partially: For the first time ever, voter turnout rose and was even the highest for 20 years. Moreover, albeit with some exceptions, the much anticipated eurosceptic wave in the future European Parliament was put to a stop. However, such recent positive developments do not hide the fact that European politics and EU decision-making are perceived as being (too) distant by EU citizens for some years already. An argument which is often brought forward not only by anti-European voices. Continue reading

EU Citizenship and European Elections – a Sleeping Beauty?

Italian, Maltese, Swede, Belgian, French, Bulgarian – no matter which nationality of one of the 28 EU member states you possess, you also enjoy EU citizenship and the numerous freedoms and opportunities it entails.

However, only one in two Europeans are fully aware of their status as citizens of the EU and one in three is not sure about what it actually means. This is surprising and alarming at the same time, as the concept of EU citizenship in itself is not new. Continue reading

Understanding EU Citizenship: from the Past to the Present

An event organised by the European Liberal Forum (ELF) and supported by Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.

«Citizenship is hereby established. […] Citizens of the Union shall enjoy the rights and be subject to  the duties provided for in the Treaties. », stipulates Article 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the
European Union.
However, do we as European citizens really know what the concept of citizenship means for us today and which concrete rights it entails apart from voting on 26 May ? As there remains still much to do in the field, we take the opportunity to put a spotlight onto EU citizenship shortly after Europe Day and only ten days before the European elections.

Continue reading