Can Europe Make It?

Variations on citizenship in a wider Europe: a round-table discussion

Has ‘multilevel governance’ replaced the nation state or European confederation, creating the precondition for a multilevel citizenship? Or is this just a name we give to the empty place left by the demise of the nation state?

Igor Štiks Rainer Bauböck Vjeran Pavlaković Peter Vermeersch Erika Harris Michael Keating
18 September 2013
A banner demanding Greek citizenship for all immigrant children born in Greece during a demonstration for citizenship in Athens. Demotix/Socrates Baltagiannis. All rights reserved.

A banner demanding Greek citizenship for all immigrant children born in Greece during a demonstration for citizenship in Athens. Demotix/Socrates Baltagiannis. All rights reserved.

This is an edited version of a panel discussion organized in the European Year of Citizenship, as part of the CITSEE symposium ‘Varieties of Citizenship in Southeast Europe’ (6-7 June, 2013) in Edinburgh, that took place between Rainer Bauböck, Vjeran Pavlaković, Peter Vermeersch, Michael Keating, and Erika Harris, chaired by CITSEE Senior Research Fellow, Igor Štiks.

The longer version is published in the webmagazine ‘Citizenship in Southeast Europe

Igor Štiks: 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: Let’s begin with discourses about citizenship, including the academic ones: and specifically the West vs. the East idea. There have been three stages to these discourses. The first stage may be described as one in which civic vs. ethnic concepts of citizenship were thought of as a stable dichotomy. The second stage centred around 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 become more liberal, inclusive and subject to the rule of law, and moreover that the east was catching up with this European model through various mechanisms of Europeanisation. The third stage allows for differentiation in both parts of Europe alongside questions as to whether these distinct parts of Europe actually exist. This most recent stage involves being aware that citizenship operates at many different levels, not just at the nation-state level.

This third perspective ensures that we are no longer looking for linear trends, but instead seeing many 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 intimately connected, the one with the other. Looking through the same lens at state level citizenship, we realize that these concepts are very often connected with sub-state levels of citizenship, including the local, regional and provincial, so that we have to explore how these connections work and influence each other.

This in turn means that we think about what differentiates citizenship, not just between states but also in terms of the principles and policies that each of these different levels develop. Then we begin to discover differences 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 to 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 increasingly asymmetric levels through overlapping memberships, migration flows or particular claims to territorial autonomy.

Štiks: Peter Vermeersch comes from a country [Belgium] which, just like the former Yugoslavia, has had many levels of competencies of citizenship. But Belgium finds itself  also placed at the heart of the EU. What would be your take on this?

Peter Vermeersch: What happens in Belgium, and in other countries, but very clearly in Belgium, is that the institutional environment somehow shapes the experience of citizenship that people have.

Belgium as you know, institutionally, is a very divided and devolved country. The process of institutionalisation of these divisions is basically carried out according to a logic of peacekeeping, and a politics of trying to keep an appeasement process ongoing. As a result, people are becoming more distant from each other, depending on which part of the country they live in. That has positive elements to it: people can emancipate themselves in their own language communities and to some extent create policies of inclusion towards marginalised minorities more than they probably could in a more centralised state.

On the other hand, people don't identify so much any more with what is happening at the state level. You get widespread depoliticisation, so that structures of civil society are not that stable any more and people feel alienated from the federal level because these pillars that they used to identify with also begin to disappear. In practice this means that people are no longer members of political parties and don't want to put themselves forward in this arena. Since it is obligatory to vote in Belgium, this produces the effect that when people do engage it is often only in protest votes. But at the same time, people are still interested in being active in politics.

So there is, it seems, a gap between the world of party politics and the institutional structures of Belgium as a country that is a consociational state, and on the other hand the engagement in politics that actually interests people. As a result, people feel they have a vote but not really a voice in politics.

How can people 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. One example is particularly 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 the G8 or G20, a citizen summit where people could discuss policy-making issues outside the realm of party politics and outside the realm of institutionalised policy-making.

It was a space of contestation, but it also felt like an additional channel through which 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 in democracy? In other words, are people opting for a smaller unit in order to have any influence at all 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 for a number of reasons in the nation-state model of citizenship, whether you're talking about civil, political or social citizenship.

There are two dimensions that I'm concerned about. One is functional, the other territorial. 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, that is to authorities in a purely technical sense who are for example invited to write highly contestable economic doctrines into constitutions. When questioned, we are told that there’s nothing that can be done about it because this is an objective fact and there is no alternative. I take as my example the writing of monetarism into constitutions, not only in the United Kingdom but a lot of other places as well - an economic doctrine that is highly contestable. That, of course, causes alienation, and furthermore undermines active citizenship in all kinds of ways.

There is a positive side to constitutionalisation when it comes to human rights. But when you are talking about social rights and economic regulation it becomes highly problematic. This relates to the territorial dimension which is principally the subject of  my work. Here there is 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 among other things. Meanwhile, there is a decentralisation of economic policies under way, and social policies are being pulled apart. So where is the ideal type of nation-state - the place where the economic, social, and political confront each other and hence can be made the site of social bargains, ideally resting upon a shared sense of community and identity? That place is less and less available.

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 profound crisis of legitimation and suddenly it's legitimised by using this terribly fashionable concept of ‘multilevel governance’, simply because we don't know what on earth it means. It has no normative basis whatsoever. Federalism does, the state does, the nation has a normative basis. But ‘multilevel governance’ means absolutely nothing at all. So it’s an analytical vacuum and also a recipe for profound complacency. But we’ve discovered this term, so it's okay now.

Even more problematically these nonelected agencies then avail themselves of this technocratic discourse, so that we see emerge a language of ‘governance, partnership, subsidiarity’ and all the rest of it. This brings depoliticisation to places which should be politicized: I'm talking about the European Commission, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund. ‘Governance’ is wonderful because it's not the brutality of the market or the bureaucracy of the old state. Indeed it is a kind of third way in which everyone gets a sort of share. I find this language very worrying and have 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 will get a struggle over these new spaces, whether at the European level or 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 streets of Europe 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 could or should take place is itself contested. So we talk about ‘regions’ for example, but we don't quite know what they are or what is the legitimate level to take these things to. We are seeing contestation within these new spaces particularly where they have been defended on the basis of a technocratic logic.

And in many European states over the last thirty years, the territorial challenge 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 politicized, because you can't take the politics out of things here. You are getting huge inequalities in Europe to the extent to which people are able to carve out new spaces in which to confront the market, to think about citizenship.

Picking up on Rainer’s point about multilevel citizenship, we should not try to create at the sub-state level mini nation-states for example. We must stop thinking about citizenship as inherently linked to the nation-state, and stop trying to reproduce at a European level what we've lost at the state level, because citizenship is not just gone at the state level. It is gone, period.

Instead we have got to look for places where the social and the economic can come together, where 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. 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 can begin to emerge....

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 after all how the nation state originally came into existence. And in its time it was a highly successful form of political organization. But overall 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.

The nation state project, as Michael says, is probably on its way out.  We don't know if it's on its way out completely, because people’s understanding of politics and the exercise of democracy is still deeply embedded in the idea of the nation state. But that state can no longer fulfil all the expectations of its citizens. Yet the quest for ever-smaller replications of the same continues and the many and various forms of citizenship – full and partial – is the answer to this quest.

I think we find 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 yet clear. And what we are observing is that this vacuum is being filled by an understanding of democracy as 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.’

This is not always necessarily a bad thing, but it is not 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 ethnic forms and confusing them with democratisation?

Post-communist states are joining in with this current stage of ‘re-ordering’ the relationship between ethnicity, democracy, citizenship and territory. But due to their historical processes occurring somewhat later, the lack of clarity involved is perhaps more obvious and more difficult to navigate. Where and on what level should solidarity among people be forged? Surely, ethnicity must be only a very 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 how you construct memory and what is to be remembered. This is universal but especially the case in the post-Yugoslav space. New redefinitions of memory basically went so far as to redefine citizenship as such, the role of citizens, their habits, their imaginary, their thoughts.

Vjeran Pavlakovic: We've heard a lot about mechanisms and institutions that define citizenship. I look to see who is included and excluded through the memory of war, especially the Croatian War of Independence (1991-95, known in Croatia as the Homeland War), and how the resulting construction of narratives really defines who is the enemy or who is allowed and who deserves to have Croatian citizenship. This  comes up even in local elections. In one recent example, the Prime Minister of Croatia only mentioned ‘civil war’ and was promptly attacked by the right wing, because the Homeland War is defined as Serbian aggression, but not ‘a civil war’. So through commemorations, textbooks, monuments, certain political elites constantly push the narrative of an exclusively Serbian aggression and the collective guilt of Serbs. What must follow is that they are then excluded from being full citizens.

Discussions about active citizenship or what it means to be in the EU do not surface in Croatia, because of this really strong ethnonational discourse - a primitive sort of discussion that ignores many of the real issues that are currently affecting other states in the EU. This brings me to my second point about European identity or citizenship and the strategies of symbolic nation building. In our research, we ask the respondents in the post-Yugoslav region what they most strongly identified with: 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 the highest associations with a European identity, whereas Croats most strongly identified with the state, the Croatian nation-state. I thought this quite surprising, especially given that Croatia is currently entering the EU. Furthermore, the discourse of Croatia as part of a western European civilisation has also 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 have written a lot about this complex picture when it comes to citizenship as both status and membership: 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’. Would you now venture to say, ‘I believe that there are certain limits to the diffusion of citizenship’?

Bauböck: Maybe I'll answer this by picking up on Erika's idea that we are in an interregnum.

Given the demise of national citizenship as the only or most plausible answer, 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 sovereign without destroying democracy once again.

This 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. I think there are a couple of different answers around and I will then come to my preferred one.

One answer suggested in the early 1990s was the following: citizenship is in exit mode, human rights are coming in and taking over. This proposes a universal form of cosmopolitan citizenship where everybody is recognised everywhere as a person and rights will be attached to the status of personhood, rather than to citizenship as membership and political equality among these 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 is that the postnational future of citizenship is not just about abstract persons but about residents: a universal denizenship. In a world which is highly mobile, where more and more people migrate ever more frequently across international borders, future citizens will pick up their rights as they set foot across a border. Once they leave, they have to pick up the rights of the next place they go to. Nothing more connects you to a place than temporary residence. So 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 is 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 other 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 who 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, where there are government institutions that can be held accountable and that have some plausible claim to represent citizens.

The main difference to a traditional Westphalian conception is the pluralist 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 should powers of jurisdiction and self-government 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 that 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 done by using a criterion that has both an inclusionary and an exclusionary side to it.

Štiks: This brings us again to the question of scale. What constitutes 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, deciding on the destinies of almost all states. What then is independence? Can you be really independent today? Post-Yugoslav states had to learn the bitter lesson that they are effectively probably less independent today than they used to be as part of Yugoslavia.

Keating: I have 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 or with 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 the Basque Country, and sort of in Flanders, “I want to go for independence.”

But, what do you mean by independence? Do you want your own money? No. Do you want your own army? No. Do you want to control your own borders more? No. So what we call ‘independence-lite’ meets what comes from the other direction, what we call ‘devolution-max’. This means 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 will find a new model of the state, but we will find new ways of reconfiguring states that subsequently will be called something else – with a lot of muddling through on the way. My book which is coming out in October from Oxford University Press, Rescaling the European State, starts out by talking about territory and rethinking territory, drawing on a lot of the work in social sciences that’s been going on in social geography which says that territory is vitally important. It has not gone away. The 1980s thesis, ‘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, for all sorts of things. It’s very much there. But not territory in the sense of a fixed line which separates whole systems one from the other.

So this really ends up pointing to what Rainer was saying about the importance of territorial jurisdictions. They should be open in all kinds of ways. The meaning of a territory when it comes to culture needn’t necessarily correspond to one defined in terms of economics. On the other hand, we need quite strong boundaries where certain kinds of social compromises are to be made. Otherwise, you will 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, the notion of post-sovereignty is still valid as a way of thinking about the way in which the world is developing, but political elites find it very difficult to get their heads around that. Immediately, instinctively, they lapse into a very traditional sovereignty-type of language even when this is absolutely divorced from the control of actual functional systems.

Štiks: We have mentioned a couple of times the enormous differences in social status that exist in accessing citizenship. Peter you have worked a lot on the Roma, this paradigmatic case of exclusion. These are the people who are falling between the cracks of theories, law and normative ideas of what ‘governance’ should look like and what it actually means to be a person. Can you reflect on these questions from this point of view?

Vermeersch: Thinking about the creation of equal citizenship across these various jurisdictions, necessarily I am forced to think about the Roma. In the European context, a number of European institutions, and the European Commission most lately, have most clearly 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. Concretely, think of the case in 2010 when Roma asylum seekers and migrants from within the EU, from Romania and Bulgaria, were expelled from France and sent back to their countries of origin. The European Commission very much protested against that. That set into motion a whole movement towards pushing EU member states towards better plans in integrating its Roma populations. There is something important going on here.

The European Commission seemed to present itself as the prime protector of Roma populations across Europe. In a certain sense that must be a good development for these populations. But the problem is that it has mobilised a very strong anti-Roma movement, which is also coming together with anti-European forces in a number of EU states. And the reasoning more or less is 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 must protect themselves. This simply feeds into classic Eurosceptic reasoning that sees Europe as taking all the power away from the nation 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 now symbolically ascribed to the technocratic European elite who is also despised by populist national movements. Sometimes these well-intended attempts to protect excluded populations across European boundaries lead to processes of even greater marginalisation and exclusion.

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. But here we see, in current circumstances, a much more complicated situation.

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