This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 320294


Being British: Embarrassment and Surprise

Two emotions from bEUcitizen so far: embarrassment and surprise. It is embarrassing being a UK national collaborating with partners on an EU project, particularly when the focus is migration. I can’t help but feel anxious that colleagues think I hate Bulgarians and want to impose English language tests on every non-Brit who crosses the border, or have a fantasy that if it weren’t for Europe we’d be drinking real ale, and playing cricket on the village green. And yes, I do only speak one language, English. I would feel this whatever the project I suspect. But the second emotion, surprise is related to the subject of our endeavour: barriers to EU citizenship. Here we have scholars reflecting on why EU citizenship seems to promise so much more than it delivers in practice, compounded by anxieties that national citizenship is being eroded by EU membership. But those of us who are interested in migration have a quite different starting point: that EU citizenship is giving more value, not less, to national citizenship, and national sovereignty is considerably strengthened by states having the power to decide who has access to EU citizenship. Third Country Nationals certainly value it, even if some EU nationals (and UK nationals in particular) do not. After all Malta is now effectively suggesting it is worth 1.15 million euros in its ‘Citizenship by Investment’ visa. One reason it is valued is its attendant immigration rights that go beyond mobility within the union. For example, as national governments make it harder for their citizens to be joined by Third country national partners and children, the ‘Surinder Singh’ route is becoming increasingly popular. Under this, nationals of one EU state set up temporarily in another member state, and as EU citizens they can be joined by their families without being subject to the national immigration controls of the state they are residing. They then return to their state of national citizenship together, again as EU free movers. When it comes to immigration restrictions, EU citizens can exercise rights that nationals cannot. Furthermore, it is not always necessary to move to enter the EU legal space to access these rights. The Zambrano family asserted that EU citizen children should effectively produce EU rights for their parents to live and work in the EU even though the child has only ever lived in their state of birth (in this case, Belgium). The national response was to restrict ius soli, in order not to ‘produce’ EU citizen children. How much does migration undermine EU and national citizenship, and how much does it make it, or at least reveal that both are ever evolving and under construction?