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Sitizenship Education Essay


In this essay, I will argue that it is impossible to establish trans-national citizenship and I will make this argument in relation to European citizenship. There are mainly five aspects supporting my argument. To begin with, as education exerts a great influence on the establishment of European citizenship, it is necessary to describe the current status of the education for European citizenship and investigate whether these educational activities are of help to its establishment. Education for European citizenship is so important as European citizenship is not a shared cultural heritage that Europeans will automatically identify themselves to. Rather, it is established on the basis of a shared democratic culture that Europeans recognize themselves as citizens of Europe. Therefore, for young people in Europe, educational initiatives are of great importance in facilitating the process of establishing European citizenship. These educational actions have been carried out in a large number of areas such as language, history in order to enhance and promote their sense of belonging to Europe, which contributes to the establishment as well as the development of European citizenship. In this regard, many efforts have been made to accomplish this goal, the details of which are included in the body part, however, it remains unclear that how much it has been done and whether it is effective or not.

Hence the efforts that have already been made seem not to facilitate the establishment nor encourage the development of European citizenship. Secondly, according to Sobisch(1997), there are three definitions presented in order to meet the requirements of the establishment of European citizenship. They are “political-legal, civic-virtue and European identity” (Sobisch, 1997, p.74). Due to the failure to meet the last two requirements, the possibility of European citizenship is minimum. The definition of “civic virtue” (Sobisch, 1997) signifies the normative aspect of European citizenship, which refers to those good qualities of citizens. But there is almost no literature that can be traced to have recorded the specific duties or obligations connected to European citizenship, nor there are many opportunities for Europeans to perform their duties in the context of transnational concept-Europe, which means that the “good qualities of citizens” are not specifically regulated in any relevant literature. With regard to the facet of European identity, evidence is provided in the body part.

Thirdly, it is obvious that the recognition of the similarity in cultures and values is vital to establish EU citizenship just as Jean Monnet says “If we were beginning the European community all over again, we should begin with culture” (as cited in Schlesinger, 1987, p. 222). Due to the fact that there exists deep diversity in both cultures and values within the European countries, it hinders the process of the development of European citizenship to some extent. In Eder and Giesen’s theory, “collective identity” (Eder & Giesen, 2003) comprises the foundation of the formation of European citizenship. Due to the reason that there is no relative common cultural heritage that is considered as a crucial element for establishing collective identity can be found after all, through looking back into the European history, therefore, there is a lack of solid foundation in the establishment of European citizenship as the common shared cultural heritage is so little. Fourthly, the support of the public plays an indispensable part in the establishment of European citizenship.

When European citizenship was included in Maastricht Treaty, many debates questioned its functionality, to be more specific, the benefits it can bring out to European public and the rights it can grant citizens since its establishment. With regard to this, European Union has striven to take some effective measures to attain this goal. “These have included the creation of such ‘special rights’ as the enfranchisement of EU nationals in local elections where they live, rather than where they hold citizenship; the creation of EU passports; and a common area of free movement for people (“Schengen and all that”) as well as for goods” (Weiner, 1998, p. 603). Unfortunately, the possibilities and the opportunities as well as the rights mentioned in the treaty and other documentations have not been taken into action, or some are ineffective, thus disappointing the public.

As the support of the public provides a solid grounding for the willingness to establish European citizenship, the proposal fails at this point. Lastly, the integration of European society is closely related to building European citizenship. The reasons why it is crucial to the founding of it are listed. Then three aspects are covered to present the fact that there is a bleak future of the integration of European society due to the great divergence in European countries. Therefore, it is not hard to infer that the establishment of European citizenship is not in prospect.


What is meant by citizenship in the context of not one single country but some countries needs to be defined at the very beginning as it is crucial as well as fundamental when considering the possibility or impossibility of a particular form of trans-national citizenship. Eder&Giesen(2003) gave the definition of European citizenship: “European citizenship emerges as a concept that thematizes the problem of the social integration of Europe. European citizenship fulfills- like any other citizenship- two functions: to provide a social basis for transnational institutions and to define what is shared by those included in the social space covered by European institutions”(p. 2). Dell’olio(2005) gave the definition from another perspective:”It occurs with the formation of a supra-national community. Conceptually, citizenship now becomes detached from the nation-state in that the rights associated with citizenship can be also regulated and guaranteed by supra-national institutions” (p. 23 ). Sobisch (1997) put the definition this way:

Given the ambiguity surrounding the term European citizenship, it is perhaps best defined ex negativo, that is, by what it is not. First and foremost, the Treaty of European Union does not establish a nationality of the Union, but rather a complementary citizenship to that of a member state. Secondly, the rights granted by the Treaty of European Union are not only limited in scope, they are also highly qualified. The rights are the right to free movement, the right of residence and so on. There are seven rights that are granted to the people owning the nationality of the member states. (p. 82)

In this essay, the European citizenship is assumed to be a sense of belonging, a type of identity that Europeans are willing to identify themselves to. Social integration is defined by Sobisch& Immerfall (1997) as “the condition in which individuals are connected to each other and embedded in the society at large through increased levels of interdependence, communication, cooperation, and problem solving” (p. 143). 1. Education initiatives that are taken to establish European citizenship are ineffective It’s undoubted that educational actions are required in order to establish and develop European citizenship. There are a great number of educational initiatives that are designed and carried out by transnational agencies and projects created by organizations which aim to facilitate the recognition as well as the enhancement of the basics of the European citizenship among young generation in Europe. Some main approaches which intend to accomplish this goal are listed as below. First, the European Union has enforced some programmes to attain this goal and these will be carried out in three chapters. ERASMUS, for instance, is designed to encourage transnational cooperation between universities and the mobility of students. The second chapter aims at the strengthening of multilateral school cooperations as well as the enhancement of the capability of skills among the educational staff. The third chapter is related to languages, open and distance learning, adult education, exchanges of information, study visits for decision makers, and recognition of academic qualifications. As Davies (1997) stated that :

It is important to note that the main objectives seem to be to develop the European dimension rather than education for citizenship. There are also two questions remain: how far is the European Union interested in education for citizenship; and even if it is so interested, how much confidence may we have that the programmes outlined above are likely to be effective? In addition, these mentioned educational actions do not necessarily translate into action for education for citizenship. There seems to be three main overlapping forms of activity: language learning; investigation into a common cultural heritage; and the establishments of partnerships between schools which could arise through work in the mainstream curriculum or in out of class contexts. (p. 112)

With regard to the political aspects of Europe, there is little attention. Therefore, not only the aims of some educational actions are deviated from citizenship education, but also the results they can bring out turn to be not so effective, which suggests that the in-depth preparation for the formation of European citizenship of the young people is not occurring.This signifies that although the educational actions have been put forward and carried out, they turn out to be of little help to the establishment of European citizenship. As education constitutes a critical importance to the establishment of European citizenship, this scenario failed. 2. The failure to meet the requirements of establishing European citizenship 2.1 The first requirement is “civic virtue”

From the perspective of the three natures of European citizenship, it almost seems infeasible for the formation of this form of citizenship. In the nature of “civic-virtue” (Sobisch, 1997) which means the normative aspect of European citizenship, is probably the weakest. To elaborate the normative aspect of European citizenship, it should be related to the concept of citizenship first. According to Sobisch, he gave the definition of citizenship based on the “functional criteria” (Sobisch, 1997). There are mainly three distinct applications: “political-legal, normative and psychological” (Sobisch, 1997). Sobisch (1997) also states that “it makes sense to revisit the classificatory scheme to see how European citizenship fits into it”. (p. 85) Citizenship in the normative sense refers to those personal qualities which are related to a “good citizen”. Likewise, when comes to European citizenship, the normative aspect means those personal qualities which are associated with a “good citizen”(Sobisch, 1997). Thus at this particular point, there are none specific duties are included and listed by the Maastricht Treaty, not to mention the scarcity of opportunities for Europeans to launch their civic obligations in the context of the Union.

Unlike the individual state, there is no Union-wide military service, nor are there any laws, including tax laws, that apply directly to individuals. (Sobisch, 1997, p. 86) Hence, it is tough for European citizens to carry out their duties. Moreover, there are very few number of Europe-wide charity they can contribute their time as well as money to. To sum up, it is rather difficult for them to be a “good European” as the definition requires. 2.2 The second requirement is related to psychological criterion Apart from the nature of “civic virtue” (Sobisch, 1997), there is another nature that can function as the criteria for the examination of the possibility of European citizenship, that is European identity. This criterion is akin to that of “civic virtue” (Sobisch, 1997) at the European citizenship side and “normative” trait at the citizenship side. Since there is severe issue of feasibility in performing European citizenship, it is not hard to discern the impossibility of its establishment after all.

European identity, which is related to the “psychological” criterion of citizenship, is hard to achieve and up to the present, there is evidence showing that many Europeans do not identify themselves to it. The reason is what Scully (1997) pointed out that “the evolving series of compromises have advanced European unity hesitantly, and for example, created in the institutions of the European community a rather awkward structure with which all governments have been able to live, but in which none can rejoice” (p. 68). Therefore, many European citizens find the European Union confusing to them, and it is so hard for them to identify themselves with it. The fact is that although the European citizens are enjoying the benefits and rights European citizenship has brought to them, but not celebrate the possession of this kind of citizenship.

The problem of the formation of European identity is also related to the diversity in cultures and values through out European countries which will be mentioned in the third argument. From the two criteria above, it can be concluded that European citizenship fails to meet the requirements. Thus the establishment of it turns out to be impossible. 3. Diversity in cultures and values among European countries hinders the process of establishing European citizenship

3.1 Eder and Giesen’s “collective identity” theory

In regard to the diversity that already exists in cultures as well as values of the member states, a big problem related to this aspect occurs, that is, what is the foundation of the European citizenship. Eder and Giesen (2003) points out that “in order to give legitimacy to the particular interests of the Europeans, a post-national collective identity would be needed to found a European citizenship”. (p. 3) The post-national collective identity is vital in that Cerutti argued that (as cited in Deflem and Pample, 1996, p. 121) “as the increasing globalization of communication and economic exchanging generates a decrease of popular interests in national concerns in favor of an increasing identification with issues beyond national borders, the emergence of collective identity within the European Community would reinforce this general trend towards post-national identity”.

3.2 How theory of “collective identity” relates to divergence in cultures among

European countries The concept of collective identity consists of some crucial elements, such as the notion of a common cultural heritage. Throwing mind back to the history of the whole Europe, wars between nations out of interests are not difficult to note. It is also a tough task to find out a united combat against foreign invasion. Some would argue that Christianity and Renaissance or Enlightenment would be considered to have made some efforts to provide some form of basis for the common European cultural heritage. But these movements are not unanimously approved to be a European cultural mission. “The only reference which comes close to a common collective memory of Europeans is perhaps the defeat of Nazism and fascism but even this is occasionally contested” ( Eder& Giesen, 2003, p. 11). Hence, to sum up, there hardly exists the so-called “common cultural heritage” for the Europeans.

It can be concluded that in this aspect, the establishment of European citizenship seems to be impossible. 4. The lack of public support impedes the process of building European citizenship The issue of the actual functions of the European citizenship as well as the rights it can confer on people come to the fore when referring to the possibility of the establishment of European citizenship. European citizenship claims to provide people with many possibilities in some arenas of their daily life, such as social and political rights. Although the possibilities seem very alluring and encapsulate the objective of improving people’s life to a certain degree, several possibilities it has mentioned have not been taken into action yet and some, though having been implemented, lead to disappointing results. Therefore, it is devoid of public support which serves as a fundamental as well as an indispensable role in the establishment of European citizenship.

4.1 citizen’s political rights

From the perspective of citizen’s political rights which are considered to be an essential part of citizenship within the European Union, it turns out that they are not always guaranteed to the same extent throughout the European Union. As Dell’olio (2005) pointed out that Both the treaties and more recently the European Union draft constitution provide for “derogations”. In the Spanish elections which took place on 28 May 1994, only citizens of the European Union coming from the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden were able to vote according to Royal Decree 202/9, based on a criterion of reciprocity. This action of Spanish Decree therefore discriminated against citizens of other European Union countries resident in Spain on the grounds of nationality. (p. 78)

It can be discerned that the principle of derogation undermines the equality of citizen’s rights of the member states which is a fundamental component of political rights as it has taken discriminatory measures to smooth the process of the election. What’s worse, instead of intending to create more positive expressions of a supra-national citizenship, it could lead to resentment. Therefore, there is lack of public support in the process of the establishment of the European citizenship. 4.2 European Union’s incapability of solving public problems Moreover, the lack of public support can be also seen in terms of European Union’s incapability of solving problems for the public. First of all, the condition of unemployment remains severe and not solved.

It has aroused the public’s dissatisfaction. In addition, as Dell’olio (2005) stated that “the introduction of a state-resembling normative institution such as European citizenship has nevertheless failed to achieve the aim that greater democratic reform of EU institutions and more participation in them will generate a deeper sense of political community” (p. 80) 4.3 The disappointment that the European community left to many people Another example is the disappointment that the European community left to many people. Scully(1997) stated that: By the 1980s, the European Community was an established part of European life. While it facilitated increases in trade, and institutionalised cooperation between its members, it was clearly a long way from a close federal union. National governments insisted on retaining a veto over many policies, while the most well-known of those policies, the Common Agricultural Policy, was becoming a fiasco, with vast over-production of food leading to European “food mountains” and the destruction of surpluses, all at considerable public expense. (p. 56)

From the three aspects as mentioned above, the establishment as well as the development of European citizenship are lacking in public support which indeed contributes as an indispensable factor in the process. 5. The infeasibility of European social integration results in the impossibility of establishing European citizenship Lastly, the possibility of European citizenship is associated closely with the integration of the European society. Therefore it is easy to infer that if the integration of the European society is unsuccessful, then there is little possibility for the establishment of European citizenship. 5.1 The reasons why social integration is significant for European citizenship The reasons why social integration is so significant for European citizenship are the following: to begin with, from the perspective of history, in the past, the state builder would not care about the heterogeneity of the places that he has already taken control of, on condition that the heterogeneity did not pose a threat to his domination, however, this is not the case with today’s political context(Sobisch&Immerfall, 1997, p. 143).

The fact is that it is almost impossible to carry along the process of integration without popular consent. In a normative sense, as Sobisch&Immerfall(1997) point out that “Europe today is, after all, democratic”(p. 143). Second, in order to encourage the collaboration between governments and enhance the possibility of building a supra-national institution, which is now referred to as European citizenship in this essay, common interests are very crucial. Aspects of social integrations consist of political, economic, and social commonalities, and these elements are the catalyst for the creation of common interests. “The persistence of social and economic inequality across member states will make it much more difficult to create a ‘Social Europe’ based on the principle of social solidarity”(Sobisch&Immerfall, 1997, p. 143). To explain this relation, an example can be taken.

The countries which are wealthier within Europe would be reluctant to cooperate with the countries that are comparatively poorer as the economically prosperous ones will have the feeling that they can gain no advantages from the cooperation, whereby hindering the process of building a social Europe. Moreover, with regard to party systems which are influenced by social and economic inequalities, the establishment of a real European party system therefore was impeded. Economy status of member states can exert a great influence in many aspects, such as value systems in the areas of personal freedom, morality and so on, thus making it difficult to reach a consensus dealing with these issues in the policy making at European level. 5.2 Divergence in European societies results in difficulty in achieving social integration Then several areas will be included to present the divergence in European societies. It is certain that the divergence results in the difficulty in achieving social integration of European society, whereby undermining the prospects of the building of European citizenship.

The first area mentioned is political structure. With regard to the attitudes to “the welfare state”, which is also called the “social market economy”, a large number of studies have established the existence of marked differences among societies. The divergence in this particular aspect leads to a strong dispute over social as well as other policies at the European level. The next area is”social stratification”. Social stratification mainly consists of two parts, that is, economic and fiscal performance as well as family values. In terms of economic and fiscal performance, there exists great divergence among the countries. “Countries like Belgium, Denmark, Sweden or Switzerland have performed well, while countries like Greece, Portugal or Spain, have been constantly relegated to the periphery” (Sobisch&Immerfall, 1997, p. 149). Therefore, it can be noted that great difference exists still in the economic conditions, likewise, the quality of life, is also divergent. When family value is concerned, differences in family patterns occurs. For instance, on the issue of gender roles, a statement that a woman’s place is at home, arouses substantial differences among the European countries. This divergence may lead to disagreement in social and family policy when decisions are made at the European level.

5.3 Great uncertainty in possibility of establishing a shared community leads to difficulty in achieving social integration Overall, there is great uncertainty regarding the possibility of establishing a shared community in European people’s mind. Several factors may contribute to this infeasibility. First of all, as Sobisch&Immerfall(1997) pointed out that “a trans-national European public is lacking, where discussions between intellectuals still take place mostly within the confines of national philosophical traditions” (p. 158) Apart from this, “no truly European party system has been established yet”(p. 156). Although there are some transnational political groups that exist, “they are not stable and it is ineffective in creating significant links between voter voice and MEP behavior because of their heterogeneity” (p. 158). In addition, as Sobisch and Immerfall (1997) argue that “democratic accountability in the sphere of mass communication is lacking due to the multi-level decision system of the European polity” (p. 158). Taking the current status of the public opinion in Europe society into consideration, which is developed not very well, whereby it is hard to form a common European public opinion after all. From what is presented above, it is not difficult to note that the crucial elements that consist of European social integration do not amount to a clear movement toward the process of integration of the European society.

To sum up, first of all, although the educational initiatives which play a crucial role in the process of the establishment of European citizenship have been carefully designed and carried out, the effects seem not to be very substantial. Secondly, according to the three natures of European citizenship, the establishment of European citizenship does not fit into the two of the criteria mentioned. Thirdly, with regard to the diversity that exists in cultures as well as values in Europeans, and the collective identity which is based on the cultures and values, there is almost no relevant literature that includes the common shared cultural heritage among European people.

Fourthly, in terms of public support, which is believed to be the solid grounding of the establishment of European citizenship, the failure to make the possibilities that it claims to provide come true and several compromises in citizen’s political rights as well as the misconduct of the European Community in the early years disappoint the public and thus lacking the support of them. Last but not the least, from the perspective of the integration of the European society which is closely associated with the building of European citizenship, three areas are covered to illustrate that due to the existence of great divergence in European society, there is little possibility of the social integration of European society, thus making it difficult to establish European citizenship. From the facts and reasons listed above, it can be concluded that European citizenship is impossible.


Taking the current status of the development of European nations into consideration, it is unwise for an individual country to develop all alone. In the context of the global market, a European country would seem so weak in competing with other economic powers such as the United States. It seems an inevitable trend for European nations to unite together to compete with others. First of all, the most significant task is to circulate a single currency within European nations. In addition, European social integration is necessary although the fact remains that it is still impossible at present. Taking all the factors which contribute to the impossibility of the establishment of European citizenship into consideration, it seems to me that the social integration of Europe is the most significant one. Despite the fact that up to the present, European social integration seems infeasible due to the reason that there exists great divergence in European societies, it is not assumed that the only prerequisite for the European integration is the complete convergence in social, economical, and political aspects of European countries. Switzerland and the United States can be taken as a very good example of mature social integration of many different cultures and ethnic groups. It should be pointed out that there exists common shared political as well as social bonds in these societies. Moreover, these societies”possess a strong socio-political consensus” (Sobisch& Immerfall, 1997), which is just what is lacking in European societies.

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Davies & A. Sobisch (Eds.), Developing European Citizens (pp. 51-72). Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Hallam University Press. Sobisch, A., & Immerfall, S. (1997). The Social Basis of European Citizenship. In I. Davies & A. Sobisch (Eds.), Developing European Citizens (pp. 141-174). Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Hallam University Press. Sobisch, A. (1997). The European Union and European Citizenship. In I. Davies & A. Sobisch (Eds.), Developing European Citizens (pp. 73-96). Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Hallam University Press. Sobisch, A. (1997). Interest In, Knowledge About, and Support For the European Union. In I. Davies & A. Sobisch (Eds.), Developing European Citizens (pp. 123-140). Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Hallam University Press. Wiener, A. (1998). “European” citizenship practice: building institutions of a non-state. Canadian Journal of political science, 32(3), 603-605. doi:10.1017/S0008423900014189

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