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European Union Citizenship

Sandra Lavenex

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The Maastricht Treaty introduced EU citizenship, which refers to the rights and obligations of citizens of member states that result from their right to free movement within EU territory.

Every person holding the nationality of a member state is automatically also an EU citizen. EU citizenship complements, but does not replace, national citizenship. The Treaty established the right, previously confirmed by the European Court of Justice, of every European citizen to free movement and residence within the EU, whether they are economically active or not. The Maastricht Treaty also established the active and passive right to vote in European and local government elections. Ultimately, EU citizenship also improved diplomatic and consular protection by giving EU citizens the right to turn for help to the diplomatic or consular authorities of any other member state represented in a third country, if the citizen's own state is not represented there. The Treaty of Amsterdam, finally, extended the rights of EU citizens by prohibiting discrimination on grounds of gender, race, ethnic origin, religion or ideology, disability, age or sexual orientation.

The existence of common EU citizenship, however, in no way affects the highly heterogeneous nature of citizenship regulations within the individual states. Although nearly all member states acknowledge the right to citizenship based on parentage (jus sanguinis) as well as the principle of awarding citizenship to persons born within their territories (jus soli) (see below), there is no comparable liberal trend discernible where naturalisation regulations are concerned. Despite the institution of Union citizenship, the EU has no powers that could touch upon national citizenship regulations.

Jus soli regulations in the old EU member states (as at 2007)

*Sweden recognises a regulation by which, regardless of birthplace, minors are granted Swedish citizenship after five years´ residence without the imposition of any further conditions and simply by informing the authorities.
Jus soli for second generation upon reaching age of majorityJus soli for second generation upon birthJus soli for third generationNo jus soli
Belgium, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Netherlands, (Sweden)18, United KingdomBelgium, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, United KingdomBelgium, France, Netherlands, Portugal, SpainAustria, Denmark, Greece, Luxembourg

Source: Bauböck 2006



  1. See Bauböck 2006.

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