CITSEE discussion: Varieties of Citizenship in a wider Europe

citizenship in Europe

Varieties of citizenship in a wider and more territorially differentiated Europe’ was a panel discussion organised as part of the CITSEE symposium ‘Varieties of Citizenship in Southeast Europe’ (6-7 June, 2013) in Edinburgh. The discussion took place between Rainer Bauböck, Professor of Social and Political Theory at the European University Institute in Florence and Co-director of the European Union Democracy Observatory or Citizenship, Vjeran Pavlaković,  Assistant  Professor in the Department of Cultural Studies at the University of Rijeka (Croatia), Peter Vermeersch, Professor of Politics at the University of Leuven, Michael Keating, Chair in Scottish politics at the University of Aberdeen, and Erika Harris, Head of Politics Department and Director of the Europe in the World Centre at the University of Liverpool. The discussion was chaired by CITSEE Senior Research Fellow Igor Štiks. Here we bring you some of the most interesting and thought-provoking parts of the discussion. 

Igor Štiks: Although the CITSEE project is concerned mostly with the Balkans, we would all agree that problems encountered there are not Balkan-specific in any way and that similar processes could be detected across Europe. Rainer Bauböck, in your capacity as director of the EUDO Citizenship Observatory, you have a good overview of citizenship policies. What is happening now with citizenship across Europe? What would you single out as the most important trends?

Rainer Bauböck: Maybe it's easier to answer the question not by referring to policies but rather to discourses about citizenship, including the academic ones. I am specifically referring to what is called the West vs. the East idea. Let me suggest that there have been three stages in these discourses. The first stage may be called civic vs. ethnic conceptions of citizenship, i.e. a dichotomised perception of a stable difference. The second stage was still lingering on in CITSEE to a large extent but has been criticised throughout this conference. This was the idea of convergence. There was a lot of literature in the 1990s that said that in the West with the creation of the European Union citizenship policies have been becoming more liberal, inclusive and subject to the rule of law in all states. CITSEE’s topic suggested that in a way they were also becoming more Europeanised in the East. There is a European model shaped by the dominant Western core of Europe and the East is catching up with that model through mechanisms of Europeanisation. The third stage is about differentiation in both parts of Europe and to some extent questions whether there are still these distinct parts of Europe. It's also about being aware that citizenship operates at many different levels, not just at the nation-state level.

Throwing in that third perspective means that we are no longer looking for linear trends, but instead seeing things that we haven't seen before. It asks us to think about European citizenship and member state citizenship no longer as if they were separate phenomena, but as connected with each other. Looking through the same lens at state level citizenship, we realize that they are very often connected with sub-state levels of citizenship, including local or regional or provincial ones and we have to explore how these connections work and influence each other. That means we have to think about what differentiates citizenship not just across states but also in terms of the principles and policies that each of these levels develop. And differences are then all over the place. Let me say that this is a somewhat unsatisfactory conclusion for me as a political theorist because I still want to maintain that there is a normative content of citizenship which has something to do with inclusion and equality. The problem that we have to address is how to make sense of norms such as inclusion and equality in a world in which citizenship is differentiated across levels and increasingly asymmetric through overlapping memberships, migration flows or particular claims to territorial autonomy.

Štiks: I’d like to ask Peter Vermeersch to comment on this especially, since Peter comes from a country [Belgium] which, just like the former Yugoslavia had, has many levels of competencies of citizenship but then is placed at the heart of the EU as well. As someone who deals with citizenship in Belgium, citizenship in different communities, citizenship in Eastern Europe, as well as with general questions of citizenship and democracy, what would be your take on this?

Peter Vermeersch: I think that's a very important point about democracy you make there because what happens in Belgium, and I think happens in other countries, but very clearly in Belgium, is that the institutional environment somehow shapes the experience of citizenship that people have. And Belgium as you know is a very divided and devolved country institutionally. The process of institutionalisation of these divisions is done on the basis of a logic of peacekeeping basically and a logic of trying to keep the political as an appeasement process ongoing. On the basis of that people are becoming more distant from each other depending on which part of the country they live in. That has positive elements to it as well and people can emancipate in their own language communities and so on and you can create policies of inclusion towards marginalised minorities to some extent more than you could probably in a more centralised state.

On the other hand people don't identify so much anymore with what is happening at the central level. You get a widespread depoliticisation so that structures of civil society are not that stable anymore and people feel alienated from the federal level once more because these pillars that they used to identify with also disappear. So in practice this means people are not members any more of political parties and don't want to go forward. Since you have to vote in Belgium, it's obligatory, this produces the effect that people often engage only in protest voting. But people at the same time are still interested in being active in politics.

So there’s a gap between, it seems, the world of party politics and the institutional structures of Belgium as a country, as a consociational state, and, on the other hand the engagement in politics that people are actually interested in. They feel they have a vote but not really a voice in politics. I think your question was somewhat aimed at how people can respond to that feeling of frustration. In Belgium specifically you have people experimenting with new forms of political participation outside of party politics, a sort of citizens’ activism. In particular, one example is really important, a few years ago a group of independent citizens decided to establish a big collaborative forum for people from all parts of the country, that was called the G1000 as opposed to G8 or the G20, a citizen summit where people could discuss policy-making issues outside of the realm of party politics and outside of the realm of institutionalised policy-making. That was also contested but that felt like an additional channel where people could express their willingness to participate in Belgium as a whole.

Štiks: Now I’d like to ask Michael Keating to comment on nationalist, separatist, federalist or devolution movements in Europe. Is the demand for decentralisation and devolution connected to the current problem of the crisis of democracy? In other words, are people opting for a smaller unit in order to have any influence on institutional politics and the decision making process?

Michael Keating: Let me start on a slightly different point. I think there is a profound crisis of the nation-state model of citizenship whether you're talking about civil, political or social citizenship for a number of reasons. There are two dimensions that I'm concerned about. One is a functional dimension and the other is the territorial dimension. As far as the functional dimension is concerned we are seeing this increasing tendency to pass over important tasks of social regulation and management to non-elected authorities, to the authorities with a purely technical justification or to write highly contestable economic doctrines into constitutions which we see and then say there’s nothing that can be done about it because this is an objective fact. I take as my example the writing of monetarism into constitutions, not only in the United Kingdom but a lot of other places, an economic doctrine that is in my view more than contestable. That of course causes alienation, it undermines active citizenship in all kinds of ways.

Now there’s a positive side to constitutionalisation when it comes to human rights but when it comes to social rights and economic regulation it becomes highly problematic. Then there’s a territorial dimension which is what I principally work on and there’s a process of rescaling. We are seeing certain functional systems migrating to different territorial levels. We're seeing a globalisation of the economy and a Europeanisation of financial regulation of monetary policy and other things. We’re seeing a decentralisation of economic policies, we're seeing social policies being pulled apart. So where is the ideal type nation-state, the place where the economic, social, and political confront each other and can be the site of social bargains and rest ideally upon a shared sense of community and identity? That is less and less the case.

So representative democracy no longer corresponds to important levels of regulation partly because of these functional processes but partly because of specific policy decisions. The response of the academic world and the political world to this has been utterly wanting. You’ve got a crisis of legitimation there and suddenly it's legitimised by using this terribly fashionable concept of governance because we don't know what on earth it means. It has no normative basis whatsoever, federalism does, the state does, the nation have a normative basis but governance means absolutely nothing at all so it’s an analytical vacuum and a recipe for complacency. We've discovered multilevel governance so it's okay now.

Even more problematically these nonelected agencies then use this technocratic discourse, so we get a language of governance, partnership, subsidiarity and all the rest of it. This brings a depoliticisation of places which should be politicised. I'm talking about the European Commission, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund. Governance is wonderful because it's not the brutality of the market or the bureaucracy of the old state, it’s a kind of third way and it's sort of everyone gets a share of it. I find this language very worrying and always tried to demystify it and strip it bare and ask people what on earth they are talking about.

But politics will out and we’ll get a struggle over these new spaces whether it's the European level, whether it's the substate level, and that is exactly what we are seeing at the moment. We’re seeing a European project based as it is upon a particular type of technocratic logic being contested in the street because it can't be contested in the ballot box. At the sub-state level we’re seeing the emergence of new spaces of all sorts, all kinds. The configuration of these new spaces is very different but what they have in common is that the definition of the territory, the delimitation within which contestation would take place is itself contested. So we talk about region but we don't quite know what they are or what is the legitimate level to take these things and we’re seeing contestation within these new spaces again particularly where they have been defended on the basis of a technocratic logic.

In many European states over the last thirty years the territorial issue has been treated as a fairly technical issue. Whenever states try to do this there’s a local response and that corresponds in certain places with existing demands for territorial autonomy. So in Scotland this is immediately politicised because you can't take things out of politics here. You are getting huge inequalities in Europe to the extent to which people are able to carve out new spaces to confront the market, to think about citizenship. The only way I can really think, picking up on Rainer’s point, is multilevel citizenship, not thinking of citizenship as inherently linked to the nation-state or trying to reproduce at a European level what we've lost at the state level, because it's not just gone at the state level, it's gone, period. We should not try to create at the sub-state level mini nation-states. Instead we've got to look for places where the social and the economic can come together, new social compromises can be forged and new forms of social and citizenship can be realised. I’m optimistic about the intellectual basis of this project but I’m frankly pessimistic as to whether we’re actually going there because I don't think we are.

Štiks: You are saying that it is important not to replicate nation-states either at the European level or at sub-state level. But in practice, whenever we see these things happening, they are usually repeating the old recipes. With certain variations, and Erika did a lot of work on this, they replicate old nationalist recipes in one way or another very often mixing in ethnicity or cultural elements. When this gets combined with the territory then we all know what we can get....

Erika Harris: Linking ethnicity with territory and administration was at the heart of the Yugoslav problem and eventually led to its disintegration and the subsequent conflict – and not only in Yugoslavia. This is how the national state came into existence. In its time this was a very successful political organisation, but its success has been more than matched by its failure to reconcile the coexistence of ethno-national groups within and between states. We can’t keep replicating a formula from a different era when the nation-state may have been an answer to socio-political challenges, but no longer is – whether on the European level or sub-state level.

I agree with Michael that the national state project is probably on its way out.  We don't know if it's on its way out completely, but we certainly know that people’s understanding of politics and exercise of democracy is still deeply embedded in the idea of the nation state, but that state can no longer fulfil all expectations of its citizens; yet, the quest for ever-smaller replications of the same continues and the various forms of citizenship – full and partial – is the answer to this quest. I think we are finding ourselves in an ‘interregnum’ stage (a medieval term, when one king died and there was no new king yet). We are in some kind of a transitional period where the nation-state in its classical form is departing, but what is to replace it is not quite clear. And what we are observing is that this vacuum is being filled by an understanding of democracy as the rights based on ethnicity. But this is only a small part of democratic politics; if anything, democracy should be more concerned about how people are governed, not by which people and by whom. I am concerned with the excessive ethnicisation of politics and citizenship which is often misconstrued as democratisation, so that democratisation becomes all about ‘my right, my flag, my territory, my mayor, etc.’

While it is not necessarily a bad thing, I don’t think that it is democratisation as such. It is probably an answer to the transitional nature of the nation-state, in the absence of its replacement. Over the last few days we have heard about various forms of citizenship which seem to reflect this confusion about how to bridge the various layers of political influence with ethnicity. I am wondering whether we, as academics who describe and try to explain these processes, and who, as Michael says, have not yet developed the appropriate analytical or methodological tools, are contributing to this proliferation of ethnicity and confusing it with the democratisation? Post-communist states are joining the current stage of ‘re-ordering’ the relationship between ethnicity, democracy, citizenship and territory, due to historical processes somewhat later and therefore the lack of clarity is perhaps more obvious and more difficult to navigate. Where and on what level should solidarity among people be forged? Surely, ethnicity is only a partial answer.

Štiks: This brings us to Vjeran Pavlakovic who works a lot on the question of memory and its political use. How you construct political communities is often related to the politics of memory, how you construct memory and what is there to be remembered. This is clearly the case everywhere but especially in the post-Yugoslav space. New redefinitions of memory basically went so far as to redefine citizens as such, their role, their habits, their imaginary, their thoughts.

Vjeran Pavlakovic: I think we've heard a lot about mechanisms and institutions that define citizenship and what I look at is to see who is included and excluded through the memory of the war, especially the Croatian War of Independence (1991-95, known in Croatia as the Homeland War), and how the construction of the narratives really defines who was the enemy or who was allowed and who deserves to have Croatian citizenship. And I think this is also coming up even in the local elections. One example recently, when the Prime Minister of Croatia mentioned something about civil war, he was attacked by the right-wing because the homeland war was defined as Serbian aggression not ‘a civil war’. So through these commemorations, through textbooks, through monuments, certain political elites constantly push the narrative of exclusively Serbian aggression and the collective guilt of Serbs. So presumably they are then excluded from being full citizens.

A lot of these discussions we hear about active citizenship or what it means to be in the EU is really not being discussed in Croatia because there is this really strong ethnonational discourse and maybe even a primitive sort of discussion that is ignoring many of the real issues that are presently affecting other states in the EU. That brings me to my second point about European identity or citizenship and the strategies of symbolic nation building. In our research, we were asking the respondents in the post-Yugoslav region what they most strongly identified with, whether it's Europe, their country, a local city or region. Croatia had one of the lowest percentages for European identity of the Yugoslav successor states we analysed. Actually the respondents in Kosovo had among the highest associations with European identity as did some of the other countries, whereas Croats most strongly identified with the state, the Croatian nation-state, which I thought was quite surprising especially because Croatia is now entering into the EU. Furthermore, the discourse of Croatia as part of western European civilisation has been going on for the last twenty years. Of course there's also a category of Balkan identity and Croatia scored very, very low on that. Actually Kosovo had the highest support for Balkan identity as well.

Štiks: Rainer, you wrote a lot about this very complex picture when it comes to citizenship as status and membership. It's not only about the fact that the states are defining or redefining their laws and about convergences and divergences, it's also about multiple citizenships, citizenship constellations and stakeholders. So the picture is getting extremely complex and rarely do people dare to say ’the polity should look like this’. You do this to a certain extent, but would you dare now to say ‘I believe that there are certain limits to the diffusion of citizenship as well’?

Bauböck: Maybe I'll answer this by picking up on Erika's idea that we are in interregnum. After the demise of national citizenship the question is what comes after. Of course there’s a famous answer by Claude Lefort that after the king is dead in a democracy the space of power remains empty. It is not to be refilled by another sovereign because the people need an empty space at the centre of power that cannot be defined in terms of the nation as the sovereign without destroying democracy once again. The empty space, however, also cannot be the ultimate answer because there will have to be, at least in terms of citizenship, some kind of alternative conceptions if you say that the nation is no longer the only or the most plausible answer. I think there are a couple of different answers around and I will then come to my preferred one.

One answer that was suggested in the early 1990s was the following: citizenship is going out, human rights are coming in and taking over. It's about the universal form of cosmopolitan citizenship where everybody is recognised everywhere as a person and the rights will be attached to the status of personhood, rather than to citizenship, as membership and political equality among members. It's a very nice idea but my suggestion is that this cannot be the future of democracy because it's very difficult to imagine how democracy in particular places would be linked to that universal status. Personhood justifies a fundamental layer of universal rights but it doesn't exhaust the space of the political to any significant extent.

The second idea that the postnational future of citizenship is not just about abstract persons but about residents: a universal denizenship. The future of citizenship in a world which is highly mobile where more and more people migrate ever more frequently across international borders will be that you pick up your rights as you set your foot across a border and that once you leave, you pick up the rights of the next place you go to. There's nothing more that connects you to a place than temporary residence. Everybody will be a denizen and nobody will be a citizen in the strong sense that she acquires a citizenship at birth that lasts for her whole life. Again, there’s something to be said for this vision, but it's not the world as we know it and maybe it’s also not the world in which it would be possible to organise democratic self-government since denizens must think of each other as temporarily present in a place and sharing little else than this temporary residence. You would then need a deus ex machina to provide rights from above in a top-down way since it is difficult to imagine temporary co-residents coming together to authorise a representative government that will be strong enough to maintain and secure their rights and liberties.

The third possible idea is in a way picking up on Michael’s point that the world is becoming in certain ways deterritorialised through functional jurisdictions. Economic governance of global markets through institutions such as the WTO or the IMF provides the most obvious illustration. But we can also imagine that the delivery of social goods may increasingly be provided through deterritorialised associations. You could then buy yourself membership in a global voluntary association that will provide education to your kids or healthcare to your parents. Seriously rich people actually do this already. It’s an elite model of opting out of national citizenship into functional jurisdictions where citizenship is provided as a club benefit rather than for everybody within a territorial jurisdiction. Once again, this is not a model that will be inclusive in any way. It will instead be highly segregated along lines of class and maybe also ethnicity, religion or ideology, because people don't want to associate and share the costs of club benefits with other people that don't share their identity in these kinds of voluntary functional jurisdictions.

My pessimistic or critical account of the three possible futures of citizenship leads by default to the fourth and most plausible answer, which is plural citizenships that are still connected to polities which are basically territorial and are designed to be self-governing and where there are government institutions that can be held accountable and have some plausible claim to represent citizens.

The main difference to a traditional Westphalian conception is the pluralistic view that citizenship is no longer just about the state. It’s about all types of self-government which are linked to each other at the local level, the regional substate level, the state level and the regional supranational level as in the EU. The challenge then is to figure out what it means to be an equal citizen across these various jurisdictions, vertically and horizontally.

Multiple citizenships connect horizontally places of origin and destination for migrants as well as vertically nested polities for all who are local, regional, state citizens and EU citizens at the same time. So the relations between these policies become crucial and the question is who has the claim to be included and how powers of jurisdiction and self-government should be distributed in a plurally structured but still territorially organised world. My suggested answer to the former question was the stakeholder principle. It proposes to include as citizens all those and only those individuals whose individual wellbeing or autonomy is objectively linked to the flourishing and the self-government of a particular polity.

This idea needs to be interpreted contextually and will apply differently to migrants and sedentary populations, or to local, state-based and supranational polities. However, in all sorts of contexts it can make it plausible that some people have very strong claims to be included as citizens for political purposes of representation and others don't. These others should then be excluded and this is a message that is hard to digest for liberals who think about citizenship only in terms of rights, and the more rights you have the better. From a republican perspective there is not only a problem of exclusion, but an equivalent problem of over-inclusiveness. If you include everybody in the self determination of any particular polity then there’s domination all over the place because the local people can be permanently outvoted by others who do not belong. So there is a reason why citizenship has to operate as a binary concept that includes some and excludes others. For the purpose of maintaining self-government for any democratic jurisdiction, be it local, regional, state-based or supranational, we have to figure out who its citizens are and that has to be by using a criterion that has both an inclusionary and an exclusionary side to it.

Štiks: And this brings us again to the question of scale. What is a local, a regional, a state level? How to define these borders is again bringing us back to the issues Michael is dealing with, which is why certain entities are claiming independence. Michael, you mentioned technocratic regimes that basically govern world affairs especially financially, and deciding on destinies of almost all states. What then is independence? Can you be really independent today? Post-Yugoslav states had to learn bitterly that they are probably effectively less independent today than they used to be as part of Yugoslavia.

Keating: I'll give you a twofold answer. First is a direct answer to your question of whether you can be independent, and the answer is no. You see these movements that we're talking about, they say well we‘ve adopted all this post-sovereignist discourse and we want to be independent with the world as it is out there where we have multiple opportunities for intervening. Then they go out and find that the European Union doesn't have a place for them because, either with the Central Bank and the Commission, you have to be a member state. Their own states are not prepared even to allow them to use those opportunities that exist within European law. So they say, and this has been true here in Scotland, but also in Catalonia and Basque Country, and sort of in Flanders, “I want to go for independence.” But, what do you mean by independence? Do you want your money? No. Do you want your own army? No. Do you want to control your own borders more? No. So with what we call ‘independence-lite’ which meets what comes from the other direction and what we call ‘devolution-max’ is people who want to stay within the United Kingdom and negotiate part of their way out of it. So neither of these concepts, the old style federalism nor independence makes a great deal of sense.

People then begin to realise that what we haven't found is a new model of the state. I don't think we’ll find a new model of the state but we’ll find new ways of reconfiguring states that subsequently will be called something but we will have a lot of muddling through in the way. My new book, which is coming out in October from Oxford University Press about Rescaling the European State, does start out by talking about territory and rethinking territory and social sciences drawing on a lot of the work that’s been going on in social geography saying territory is vitally important. It’s not gone away. This thesis in the 1980s, ‘la fin des territoires’, according to Bertrand Badie, didn’t happen. Territory in many ways is becoming more important for culture, for economic development, for identity, all sorts of things. It’s very much there. But not territory in the sense of a very fixed line which separates whole systems.

So this really meets I think what Rainer was saying about the importance of territorial jurisdictions. They should be open in all kinds of ways. And so the meaning of the territory when it comes to culture needn’t necessarily correspond when it comes to economics, but maybe we need quite strong boundaries where certain kinds of social compromises are to be made because otherwise you get venue shopping. You get groups that can operate at multiple levels, and will opt out of social compromises. Clearly this is much easier for capital than it is for labour and so you get an unbalancing of the social compromise. So we do need some territorial boundaries, we do need some enclosure and some control of the ability of people to opt out of political compromises and social compromises but what we do not need is the old nation-state. Exactly what that looks like I think will vary from one place to another so I think the notion of post-sovereignty is still valid as a way of thinking about the way the world is developing but political elites find it very difficult to get their heads around that because they immediately, instinctively, will lapse to a very traditional sovereignty type of language even when this is absolutely divorced from control of actual functional systems.

Štiks: We mentioned a couple of times that there are enormous differences in social status in access to citizenship, or in the rights that you exercise and have, and this is definitely a part of the picture. Peter you worked a lot on the Roma, this paradigmatic case of exclusion. So these are the people who are falling between the cracks of theories, law and normative ideas of how governance should look like or what it means to be a person. Can you reflect on these questions from this point of view?

Vermeersch: I was thinking about the creation of equal citizenship across these various jurisdictions and then necessarily I was thinking about the Roma. In the European context, it seems that a number of European institutions, and the European Commission I think most lately, most clearly have sided with the Roma, in an attempt to see them as a population that is a test case for the creation of equal citizenship across Europe. There’s something important going on here. Concretely, the case in 2010 when some Roma asylum seekers and migrants from within the EU, from Romania and Bulgaria, were expelled from France and sent back to their country of origin and the European Commission very much protested against that. That set into motion a whole movement towards pushing EU member states towards better plans in order to integrate the Roma populations.

So it seemed that there the European Commission presented itself as the prime protector of Roma populations across Europe and you could say in a certain sense that's a good development for these populations but the problem is that it has also mobilised a very strong anti-Roma movement, which was coming together with the anti-European forces in a number of EU states. And the reasoning was more or less this, that the European institutions were the best allies of the Roma population across Europe and therefore the Roma were part of the elite against which normal national populations of course had to protest because the classic Eurosceptic reasoning is that Europe is taking all the power away from the national state and thus from the national populations. So here we have a very odd picture. An attempt to protect a population in Europe that is on the margins and everywhere excluded is put now on the side symbolically of the technocratic European elite who is also despised by populist national movements. In the 1990s there was a hope that further European integration would lead to a positive situation for excluded populations like the Roma in many countries and we see here that in the current circumstances it’s a much more complicated situation. Sometimes these well intended attempts to protect these excluded population across European boundaries lead to processes of even more marginalisation and exclusion.