4 Securing Equality and Citizenship under European Integration

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Andreas Follesdal

4 Securing Equality and Citizenship under European Integration


The important objectives of education to equal citizenship must be rethought under European integration.1 One central obvious reason is that the notion of citizenship itself is reconfigured. National citizenship is supplemented, since all citizens of member states of the EU are also Union citizens. Europeanisation also raises questions about what kind of equality is required among Europeans, given the ideal of equal citizenship. In particular, is there good reason to insist of equality of education among Europeans – and if so, equality of what? Should the same knowledge base and citizenship virtues be taught across state borders and religious and other normative divides?

International human rights treaties illustrate the challenges. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) states that the equal and inalienable rights of all include the right to education, where “ Higher education shall be made equally accessible to all, on the basis of capacity..” (Art 13)

The Convention on the Rights of the Child is even more specific both as to the objective of equality and the specific contents:

1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to education, and with a view to achieving this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity,

c) Make higher education accessible to all on the basis of capacity (Art 28)

1. States Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:

a) The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;…

b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;

c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own;… (Art 29)

European integration raises perplexing issues of equality and citizenship anew. They require us to pay sustained attention to at least three philosophical issues: a) What does multiple democratic citizenships beyond the nation state require among equals? b) How can we respect diversity yet secure such equality, and while we seek to inculcate commitments to justice and virtues of citizenship? c) What are the reasons for insisting on equality of education – of various kinds - among political equals living in a Union, as compared to a unitary state?

The following reflections address some of these challenges. I shall argue that the expansion of the European political order has several implications for the content and standards of obligatory education. All must enjoy a high minimum level of education, and all pupils must be informed concerning the various ways of life prevalent in Europe. Furthermore, there must be standards for securing equality of opportunity across the EU, though it is difficult to measure under multiculturalism. Citizens must also be socialised to certain 'citizenship virtues’. One important reason is to promote trust and trustworthiness in the population.

This shared basis to be taught in schools should avoid contested religious or philosophical premises as far as possible. Yet the school system should socialise pupils to three commitments: to the just domestic and European institutions and hence the legislation they engender, to principles that justify these institutions; and to a political theory that grounds these principles in a conception of the proper role of individuals, of member states and of the Union.

I shall also argue that equality of result is not a plausible normative requirement among Europeans, while equality of opportunity is. This objective is especially difficult to measure under conditions of multiculturalism that are likely to prevail in Europe.

Section 1 introduces citizenship beyond state borders, historically and in the European Union. Section 2 explores further the intricate connections between citizenship and trust to defend the need for inculcating at least certain values. We then turn to consider some commitments that citizens must share, in section 3, and we sum up several reasons for education in section 4. Section 5 explores reasons for equality among compatriots, and Section 6 considers several challenges to this account of equality and citizenship at the European level. The chapter concludes with some comments on the lessons to be drawn for ‘Global’ citizenship.

1 On citizenship – Domestic, Cosmopolitan and European

Talk of citizenship beyond state borders is not new. Competing conceptions emerged in ancient Greek and Roman political thought. When asked which was his country, Socrates insisted that he was a citizen of the world, rather than an Athenian or a Corinthian. Likewise, when asked where he came from, Diogenes answered that “I am a citizen of the world”. There would seem to be little legal need to choose between these two conceptions for Socrates and Diogenes. Athenian citizens - a privileged set of free men - enjoyed active rights to political participation. But the citizenship beyond the city-state did not include any legal rights beyond borders. Yet Diogenes appealed to his cosmopolitan citizenship to deny any local obligations, including duties to pay taxes. Is dual citizenship legally possible, or must we choose between such sets of legal rights and obligations?

In comparison, the Roman Empire recognized and even encouraged dual citizenship with loyalty both to the local community and to Rome. This arrangement allowed citizens of Rome freedom of movement and trade within the Empire. Still, the Roman notion of dual citizenship had its drawbacks both for the individual and for the political order. To be a citizen of Rome usually only provided status or passive citizenship in the form of protection, rather than active citizenship rights to political participation enjoyed only by the patrician class. Dual citizenship also created dual loyalties in the populations of the Empire, causing unresolved conflicts (Toynbee 1970, Clarke 1994). Can European Union Citizenship avoid these legal and moral tensions of multiple citizenship?

European Union Citizenship is closer to the Roman practice than to the Greek vision of cross-border citizenship – for better and worse. Union citizenship carries clear legal implications fostering freedom of movement and trade, and is intended to supplement, rather than to replace, national citizenship. Yet dual citizenship requires the European Union, its member states, and its citizens to come to grips with challenges of institutionalisation, and the tensions among multiple loyalties. Reflection on these roles and challenges of Union citizenship also illuminate some issues regarding global citizenship – still more of a moral idea than a legal grant of active political rights. Both Union citizenship and global citizenship create aspirations to a democratic political order with a scope beyond existing states, and face challenges regarding institutions and political culture aspiring to treat all affected individuals as equals.

European Union Citizenship

Union Citizenship was a conceptual innovation of the 1993 Maastricht Treaty, reaffirmed most recently in the Constitutional Treaty agreed by the European Council July 18, 2004, but stopped in French and Dutch referendums (Art II-8). Every person who is a national of a Member State of the Union is also a Union citizen.

Union citizenship confers four main rights. They include both protections – passive rights – and some political controls – active rights, including:

  • The right to move freely among, and stay in, other Member States;

  • The right to vote and run in local and European Parliament elections in the Member State where one resides. The European Parliamentarians are elected directly by citizens of the various Member States, forming a representative body across state borders. Through successive treaties, its power over Union legislation has gradually increased. Union citizenship enhances the political rights to the European Parliament of those who have exploited the opportunities for mobility.

  • Protection in a non-EU country, by the diplomatic or consular representatives of other Member States if one’s own Member State is not represented;

  • The right to petition the European Parliament and the European Ombudsman, and to address and get answers from Union institutions in any of the official language.

The Amsterdam Treaty (1999) clarified the relationship between national and Union citizenship. Union citizenship does not replace national citizenship, but shall complement it. Yet important questions remain: how should it be taught, and how can citizens maintain and exercise dual political loyalties once created? In particular, when citizens exercise their Union powers to vote, should they pursue their own interests at all times, those of their co-nationals, or promote the interests of all Europeans. If the latter, what does justice require among Europeans? Or should they vote according to their sense of global justice, possibly promoting equality among all citizens of the world?

To alleviate some of these issues it is helpful to reflect more systematically on the multiple reasons to value education, and the content of education to citizenship in particular. We start with the question asked by philosophers for thousands of years, a question also asked by many young Europeans every morning: What is the point of going to school?

2 On Citizenship and Trust in the EU

Several scholars hold that Union Citizenship was introduced precisely to foster trust among citizens of the Union, and to engender popular support and allegiance to Union institutions and policies (Closa 1992: 1155; Shaw 1997; Wiener 1997, Follesdal 2001b).

The need for such popular support has increased with the expansion of EU activities and powers. Community-level institutions increasingly shape the lives, circumstances and aspirations of Europeans. Moreover, Union law enjoys status as a new legal order, exercising direct legal authority over Europeans (Weiler 1991; MacCormick 1997). Many citizens and organisations were critical of the increased powers of Union-level institutions partly because they appear to be beyond the control of any single accountable government. This legitimacy deficit hindered trust among Europeans and prevented compliance with common rules.

Several aspects of Union institutions make trust in other Europeans more important. As the Union increases its influence and changes its decision rules, individuals and government representatives are required to adjust or sacrifice their own interests for the sake of other Europeans. One example is that it is national governments that implement EU decisions and directives. If Union legislation is perceived as ‘interference’ or an improper imposition on domestic government, and this becomes widely suspected abroad, it will be very difficult to secure compliance.

Another example concerns veto powers. Vetoes intended to protect vital interests easily lead to deadlock in the absence of trust. Majority voting also requires trust. The minority that loses in decisions is required to act contrary to their own interests, possibly against the majority of their fellow domestic citizens, out of respect for the majority decisions made in European institutions (Scharpf 1997: 21). Minorities must also be confident that the majority will take their interests into account (Taylor 1969; Barry 1991). Likewise legislators must be trusted by each other, and by the populations, to consider the impact on all Europeans when making law. This requires that political parties and party families in European Parliament – and voters - must be trusted to consider the plight of non-nationals.

Mutual trust is central to ensuring a stable political order over time, in several ways. Trust is important when individuals must co-operate but will only do so if they expect the others to do their part. Suspicion that others will exploit rather than reciprocate one’s efforts can easily prevent or unravel complex practices of co-operation. Trust is therefore crucial for ‘social capital’ - ‘social connections and the attendant norms and trust’ (Putnam 1995: 665; Loury 1987; Coleman 1990).

To prevent suspicion and ensure stable cooperation, actual compliance is not enough: each must also appear trustworthy, so that others can count on their compliance (Hardin 1996). I submit that institutions such as those of the European Union can be an important means for fostering trust and trustworthiness even among strangers, by engendering impersonal reciprocity, of the form:

I’ll do this for you, knowing that somewhere down the road someone else will treat me in the appropriate way.

Such impersonal reciprocity is fostered by confidence in the general compliance with social institutions – including abstract, aggregated political systems (Inglehart 1970; Giddens 1995). Institutions can monitor and sanction defection, thus reducing the temptation to free ride. In turn, this reduces the likelihood of defection by those who do not mind co-operating as long as they are assured that others do likewise. A further important source of such confidence is inculcation to certain norms and values by public educational institutions.

Social practices and institutions rely on norms of impersonal reciprocity, but can also foster them - though slowly (Putnam 1993: 184; Rawls 1993: 168). Institutions enable cooperation and shape individuals’ strategies, but they can also shape our identities - how we conceive of ourselves, our values, norms and interests. This is another way that institutions can create and sustain trust. They shape individuals’ interests and perceptions of alternatives, and can foster trust in others’ benevolence (Becker 1996). Trustworthiness is further enhanced if individuals do not act on the basis of calculations, but instead are socialised to regard certain behaviour as obvious and appropriate (Stinchcombe 1986, March and Simon [58] 1993, Olsen 2000).

These remarks suggest that one fundamental challenge to the future European Union is to ensure that Europeans develop and maintain trust in one another and in their common institutions, particularly insofar as the Union increases its power and decides by qualified majority voting. Europeans must have reason to believe that they all comply with common laws, and that their new institutions and rules deserve compliance.

I venture that one important function of Union Citizenship can be to bolster such trustworthiness, by fostering citizenship virtues.

3 The Basis of Citizenship

An often voiced objection to Union citizenship as a facilitator of trust is that this is implausible. It is unrealistic to believe that Europeans will act on feelings of solidarity and charity across hundreds of miles (Preuss 1995: 275). The shared culture and common heritage of Europeans seems too thin to support the required trust, especially when compared to the national heritages bolstering compliance within the European welfare states. There is no ‘demos’ in Europe (Preuss 1995), no shared sense of destiny or broad set of common values. Indeed, the search for a common ethnic or cultural base for ‘belonging’ worries many Europeans, due to the memory of past wars based on such grounds.

However, a ‘thick’ common basis of shared beliefs, values and traditions is not needed. There are states without ‘thick’ shared values and sense of community. Instead, I submit that a satisfactory account of Union citizenship need not build on a broad base of common identity, culture and history. It can build on a shared sense of justice and more limited commitments to the equal dignity of all Europeans, motivated by a ‘desire ... to arrange our common political life on terms that others cannot reasonably reject.’ (Rawls 1993: 124; Ackerman 1980:69ff.; Weiler 1995; Preuss 1996: 275; MacCormick 1996: 150; MacCormick 1997: 341; Habermas [98] 98). This is not to deny that Union citizens also need information about European history and culture, so as to understand the impact of political decisions on Europeans of different faiths and cultures. But such information should not be mistaken for inculcation to the broad set of historically shared values.

Another challenge for European citizens is that such trust and loyalty to fellow Europeans must co-exist with trust and loyalty to co-nationals within the same member state. Citizens must thus have two political loyalties that must co-exist. This is not impossible – to the contrary, we find many federations able to instill and maintain both sub-unit loyalty and ‘overarching’ loyalty among the citizenry ({Simeon & Conway 2001 #35280}). I would again hold that these problems are manageable. The curriculum is shaped so as to promote both forms of loyalty rather than only furthering one political identity – either to the member state or to the Union.

On this view, the motivating force for complying with rules is not centrally a feeling of altruism, but rather a sense of justice
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