Este artículo ha sido publicado por Susana Beltrán García (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) en One Europe el 26 de febrero 2014 (puede consultarse aquí).
It is said that EU has a double legitimacy - on the one hand, the Member States and, on the other, the citizens. The process of European integration is the result of the tension between countries and citizens. The latter have an opportunity to implement something else that they do not have in the domestic sphere in the European arena. To achieve this, European citizenship includes a fundamental element: no borders within the EU and citizens being able to live their lives anywhere. In this sense, European identity tries to permeate its essence throughout EU territory and the successive foundational treaty reforms have reinforced that idea. Under these norms, citizens are quoted as citizens of the Union without any reference to their respective nationalities.
As citizens of the Union, people can move and reside freely within the territories of the Member States. People have the right to vote and to stand as candidates in elections of the European Parliament as well as in municipal elections in their Member State of residence. They also have the right to petition that institution, or to submit a European Citizen's Initiative to the Commission. From this point of view, the European Parliament is an institution that represents them. Of course there are other ways to participate in the Union (for example, the European Commission created a space called "your voice in Europe" which facilitates the communication between itself and citizens). By continually developing and using the possibilities that stem from European Citizenship, citizens can counterbalance the power of States and decrease the distance between themselves and the institutions.
However, what happens when the activists amongst the citizens use the privileges of European citizenship to push for the creation of a new State? This is happening in the territory of Catalonia, the place where I was born. Of course, it is not at all simple. Some Catalan people want to implement this by calling upon collective rights, such as the Right of Self-determination of the Peoples. For instance, by way of a petition addressed to the European Parliament President called "The EU should ensure the respect of human rights in Catalonia" they demand their right to decide as a Catalan people. (They have already collected around 146,000 signatures: https://www.change.org/es/peticiones/european-parliament-the-eu-should-ensure-the-respect-of-human-rights-in-catalonia#share).
In a wider context there have been two proposals of European Citizen’s Initiative that were rejected by the Commission: Enforcing the self-determination Human Right in the EU and the ICE proposal named Strengthening public participation in decision making on Sovereignty Collective. The first proposal aimed to guarantee the sovereignty of citizens in the democratic process of secession within the territory of the Member States of the European Union. In the second, they asked for the EU’s legal framework to accommodate the human right of self-determination which is not included in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
In the end, the Commission refused both proposals with the justification that the requests quoted exceeded the framework of their powers.
The problem is not whether these kinds of proposals should be rejected, but whether there is the scope for these actions to drag along other European citizens born in the same place but who do not agree with this perception. It is not only an issue with Catalonia and Spain. It is greater than that. For me, the real problem is that these collective actions divert the legitimate aspiration to strengthen European citizenship instead of increasing the power of nations. Furthermore, these kinds of initiatives encourage people who are against the creation of a new state to be more active and vocal, even at EU level, about their opinions. It is a shame, because European citizenship was not created to be used to intervene in the conflicts between domestic citizens. There are European citizens who were born in Barcelona or in other places in Europe, who are looking for a different future for the EU with fewer nations and more free international citizens.
Written by: Susana Beltran Garcia
Edited by: Svetli Vassileva