lunes, 21 de julio de 2014

When people use their European Citizenship to demand the creation of a new State. Could this rock one of the pillars of the EU?

Susana Beltrán

It is said that EU has a double legitimacy, on the one side 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 don't have in the domestic sphere in the European arena. To achieve this possibility, the European citizenship includes a fundamental element:  there aren't borders inside EU and the citizens can develop their lives and activities everywhere.  In this sense, European identity tries to permeate its essence throughout the EU territory and the successive Foundational Treaties 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 territory of the Member States. People have the right to vote and to stand as candidates in elections of the European Parliament and 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, for example. From this point of view, they have the European Parliament, as a institution that represents them. Of course there are other ways to participate in the life of the Union (for instance, the European Commission created a space called "your voice in Europe" that 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 possibilities of their European citizenship to claim for a new State? This is happening in the territory of Catalonia, the place where I was born. Of course, it is not so simple. Some Catalan people to implement this call 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, "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: In a wider context there have been two proposals of European Citizen's Initiative presented 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 latter was mainly promoted by citizens of the Catalonian territory. These proposals aimed in one case, to guarantee the sovereignty of citizens in democratic process of secession within the territory of the Member States of the European Union. In the other case, they ask to accommodate within the EU’s legal framework the self-determination human right that 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.
Nevertheless, the problem is not if these kinds of proposals are rejected, but is the capability of 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 a question whether there are citizens in Catalonia who want to continue being part of Spain. It is more than this. 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 bind 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 it is not the purpose of the European citizenship to be used to intervene in the conflicts between domestic citizens. There are European citizens who were born in Barcelona or in other places of Europe that are looking for another future for the EU with less nations and more free transnational citizens.     

2 comentarios:

  1. Nothing should happen if the EU sticks to its own fundamental and development rules. For me, the real problem lies not in the claims of nationalist groups that are subject to those rules, but on the appearance and proliferation of self-identified as anti-European groups that have parliamentary representation.

  2. Consecuencias futbolísticas de la independencia catalana: salir de la Liga española.