The term ‘citizenship’ refers to the official relationship that exists between an individual and a nation/state/country (Dumitru, 2009). This relationship describes the membership of the individual to a specific nation/state. However, there are some instances where an individual has citizenship to more than one country/state/nation. Usually, individuals are allowed to have a maximum of two citizenships (dual citizenship). The purpose of citizenship is to allow an individual exercise certain rights in the country/nation where he/she holds citizenships. Such rights include right to vote during elections, to stand for election to a public office, to take part in political activities, or to work and live in a given nation/country.

There are different ways of acquiring citizenship of a given nation/country. In Europe, an individual can acquire European citizenships through birth, ancestry, and naturalization (Acquiring EU Citizenship through Ancestry or Naturalization, 2008). Citizenship through birth is acquired when an individual is born within Europe. The parents or at least one of the parents of the individual must be citizens of Europe through birth, ancestry, or naturalization. After birth, the parents of the individual are supposed to report the birth so that the individual is registered as being born in Europe, thus a European citizen by birth. An individual can acquire European citizenships through ancestry if he/she claims that his/her ancestor(s) was/were born in Europe. Here, the individual claiming citizenship through ancestry has to prove that his/her ancestors were born in Europe.

Citizenship by naturalization is equivalent to citizenship by registration. Here, an individual applies to the European Union commission for citizenship permit, or to one of the member states of the European Union. However, there are restrictions concerning language and residency requirements (Acquiring EU Citizenship through Ancestry or Naturalization, 2008). In addition, an individual has to provide evidence that he/she is of good character by undergoing probation for a given number of years (it depends with individual member states of the European Union). It is important to note that there is no such thing as European citizenship through marriage (State Acts of Depriving Citizenship, 2007). Therefore, one cannot marry or get married to a European citizen and except to acquire automatic citizenship. Legal non-European spouses are allowed the same rights as European citizens, such as work permit and residence, but have to undergo the naturalization process for them to acquire European citizenship.

The History of the Concept of European Citizenship

Europe is not a single country but rather, a collection of different individual countries, which include Britain, Greece, Spain, and Belgium, among others. The combination of all these countries form what is known as the European Union. It is under the European Union where individuals enjoy European citizenship. Otherwise, every nation under the European Union still recognizes citizenship by nationality. Studies indicate that the European Parliamentary elections of June 1979, the first elections for European Parliament, played a great role in shaping the concept of European citizenship (Moreira, 1997). In June 1979, all European citizens were invited to take part in election of their representatives as part of collective decision-making. All citizens of the individual countries in the European Union took part in the election, thus giving rise to the concept of the European citizenship.

This undertaking gave rise to increased expectations from the European Union among the Europeans. This led to formation of the Committee of Europe of the Citizens in 1984 (Moreira, 1997). The committee was established in order to respond to the increased expectations among the Europeans to strengthen and promote the concept of European citizenship inside and outside Europe. Through the Europe for the Citizens program, European citizens were able to participate in transnational cooperation activities, a thing that contributed to development of a feeling of belonging to common European ideas as well as European identity among all the citizens of the individual countries in the European Union (Europe for Citizens, 2012).

In 1992, the concept of the European citizenship became official. This was through the formation of the Treaty of Maastricht. Among other things, the treaty stipulated that all individuals having citizenship of any of the member countries of the European Union were automatic citizens of the European Union, hence European citizens (Treaty of Maastricht, 2011). This treaty instilled concerns among the citizens of the European Union member states about loss of their national identities. They were concerned that by being declared European citizens, they would no longer have specific citizenship to their individual countries in the European Union. This led to formation of the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, which stipulated that “European citizenship complements and does not replace national citizenship” (Dumitru, 2009).

Over the years, the concept of European citizenship has continued to grow stronger. Dumitru states that two factors have contributed to the increased strength of the concept of European citizenship (2009). These factors include the use of a common currency, the Euro, and a common passport for all European citizens (the name of the country of nationality as well as “European Union” is printed on the passports).

Generally, European citizenship offers rights and privileges to European citizens, which are similar or almost equal to those provided to the citizens in their member countries. These rights and privileges include right to work, travel, and reside in any of the European Union member state. This implies that a European citizen can enter, stay, and work in any of the European Union member state without seeking permission from the government of that country. European citizenship also entitle European citizens the right to vote in European Parliamentary election, to contest for a parliamentary post in European Parliament, to file a petition in European Parliament, and to diplomatic protection by any of the European Union member state while outside the EU (Dumitru, 2009).

Origins of the Modern Concept of Citizenship: Republicanism and Liberalism

The origin of republican citizenship dates the period between 500 and 300 BC in classical Greece, particularly in Athens (Models of Citizenship and Democracy, n.d.). Historians refer to this period as the civic republican tradition. Here, the republicans linked the idea of citizenship to direct participation in democracy. In classical Greece, an ideal citizen was the one who participated directly in democracy. In his teachings, Aristotle, one of the renowned historians in Greece stated that the definition of the term citizenship was dependent of the type of constitution. However, Aristotle insisted that the definition of the term citizen in Greece was best associated with democracy (Models of Citizenship and Democracy, n.d.). However, in Athens, not everybody was allowed citizenship. These included slaves, women, and alien residents of non-Athenian descent. The main reason as to why these groups of people were not allowed Athens’ citizenship is because they were deemed incapable of carrying out one of the major citizenship duties: to defend their city (Models of Citizenship and Democracy, n.d.).

The republican model of citizenship also has its origins from Republican Rome. Republican Rome is the period after 510 BC, when the Romans expelled their king from Rome (Models of Citizenship and Democracy, n.d.). This is period when the Romans gained substantial political control through a chain of constitutional amendments. However, Rome never gained full direct democracy until the end of the Republican period in 55 BC. During the Republican period, the nobility had special powers and they held position in the Senate. The working class (the people) had their own political class where they elected tribunes to oversee protection of their customary liberty (Models of Citizenship and Democracy, n.d.). The working class also enjoyed citizenship. However, just like the Greeks, Romans deprived citizenship to women and slaves, but could extend it to foreigners. Nonetheless, as time went by, the highest political office in Rome became open to all people including the commoners.

In addition, the concept of citizenship was based on individual’s willingness to fight for Rome (their country), as well as possession of good characters of a soldier. It is clear that the republican model of citizenship drew much of its content from the Roman model rather than the Athens model. Even during the French Revolution, the Romans’ idea of citizenship continued to dominate. During the French Revolution, military service was made a central duty of citizenship. The French Revolution brought a new spirit of democracy in Europe, as many people were able to service in their nations through offering military services. Apart from military service, the traditional republican model of citizenship viewed economic equality as an important condition for citizenship. This meant a situation where there were no glaring disparities between the poor and the rich. The rationale for this condition was to enable citizens focus on public goods rather that class interests (Models of Citizenship and Democracy, n.d.).

Republican view of citizenship was also associated with ownership of property. Although the Athens rejected this condition, the Romans believed that ownership of property enabled an individual to become independent. They argued that an individual who depended on other people’s will for his livelihood was not a truly independent and equal citizen. It is important to note that these conditions were associated with men only. Generally, the traditional republican view of ideal citizenship was based on the character of an individual. That is, active participation in politics, defense for one city or country through providing military service, and focus on public goods as opposed to private interests.

According to Muller (2011), only a few features of the civic republican concept of citizenship exist in the modern European citizenship. That is, the right to participate in politics and a duty of serving ones’ country through paying taxes. Currently, European citizenship allows European citizens to have a chance to participate in politics through voting for their representative in European parliament and through contesting for positions in European Parliament.

On the other hand, the origin of the liberal concept of citizenship dates from the 17th century (Alarcon, 2000). However, historian state that liberalism citizenship started in the Roman Empire during the 1st century. Aristotle explains that under Roman rule, “a citizen was viewed as a legal being that had rights and duties under the law” (Models of Citizenship and Democracy, n.d). This model emphasized on enjoyment of rights regarded as important for individual independence by all citizens. Initially, these rights were seen as civic and political rights. However, the liberals realized that citizens had legal obligations to their states such as payment of taxes and obedience of the rule of law. At the same time, the liberals realized that laws were necessary for maintenance of public order. For this reason, in the period between 18th and 19th century, liberals started arguing that the scope of law and governance on the citizens should be minimized in order to maximize the sphere of individual liberty, especially economic liberty. This is what led to the recognition of the right to own property as a basic citizenry right. This right has remained central in the civil liberal model of citizenship.

During the 17th century, three distinct features of liberal citizenship emerged. The first one was the perception of the citizen as an individual. That is, “all citizens were equal and independent individuals, without compulsion to participate in public affairs and without duties against other citizens” (Tallgren, 2003). This implies citizenship was mainly a private affair. The second feature of citizenship under liberalism in the 17th century was little/minimal intrusion of a citizen’s life by the state. Here, emphasis was placed on protection of the rights of an individual citizen by the state in a discreet manner. The third feature was the view that citizenship was “a political expression of capitalism” (Tallgren, 2003). This entailed open access to markets and equal participation of individuals in economic activities. However, due to the difficulty of maintaining equality in a capitalist economy, this approach of liberal citizenship was soon replaced by the social liberalism concept of citizenship.

Social liberalism concept of citizenships viewed citizenship as defined using three types of rights: political, civil, and social. Political rights are the citizen’s rights to vote or take part in political activities. Civil rights are the rights that are crucial to an individual’s freedom. They include freedom of speech, right to own property, and freedom of religion. Social rights entail individual’s right to adequate living standards. These rights evolved differently, with civil rights developing in the 18th century, political rights in the 19th century, and social rights in the 20th century (Tallgren, 2003).

According to Alarcon (2000), the dominant form of citizenship in Europe is the liberal model. As a European citizen, one has to belong in one of the nations, which make the European Union. This provides evidence that just like the traditional liberalism model of citizenship, citizenship is found at the state level. This allows individual to enjoy certain rights as citizens of a certain state. In addition, the modern liberalism model of citizenship provides individuals with a chance to protect their rights from state influence, thus positioning them close to the civic liberal ideals of citizenship. Moreover, there is no communitarian citizenship in the modern liberalism model of citizenship. European citizenship is individually owned (non-communal). The only thing that European citizens share is the commitments, which arise from the relations between the member states and their nationals. Alarcon (2000) explains that,

“The European citizenship entails a commitment of the individual with the institution in order to maintain the guarantees to make a space for the enjoyment of rights something real and fluid, allowing its members to support their own perspectives in a domain absent of preconditions. This is the space to attain justice, which is the basic commitment the individuals, in so far as they want to develop as such individual, that is, with a special identity in their preferences, have to assume. In so doing, the European concept of citizenship is clearly related to liberal proposals.”


Creation of European citizenship is an example of efforts to close the gap between republicanism and liberalism concepts of citizenship. Even though European citizenship is more inclined to liberal concept of citizenship, it is clear it captures the concepts of both the republican and liberal concepts of citizenship. This is by emphasizing on citizenship based on human rights, transnationalism, and constitutional principles. This entails recognizing that citizen as an individual, where all citizens enjoy equal rights as individuals, including a right to participate in regional politics without restrictions or use of force. Participating in politics is a concept under republican model while recognition of the right to choose to participate or not to participate in politics is a concept under the liberal model of citizenship. Recognition of the two concepts in European citizenship indicates efforts to close the gap between the two models of citizenship.

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