Access to European Union citizenship

Key points:

On 6 February, the Convention Praesidium published its draft of Articles 1 to 16 of the Constitution. Article 5 incorporates the Charter of Fundamental Rights into the Constitution, while Article 7 defines citizenship of the Union as follows: "Every national of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall be additional to national citizenship; it shall not replace it."

This proposal denies EU citizenship to residents who are third party nationals, even if they are stable residents.

The EESC has proposed in various opinions that the Constitution should grant EU citizenship to third country nationals who reside on a stable basis in the EU.

European citizenship must be at the heart of the European venture. The Convention is developing a major political project to ensure that all citizens feel part of a supranational democratic political community. It is time for a new criterion for granting citizenship: European citizenship based not only on nationality, but also on stable residence in the European Union.

The EESC welcomes the incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights into the Constitution and adhesion to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which recognises a "civic" citizenship. This is the first step towards participatory citizenship for all people residing on a stable basis in the EU.

The EESC agrees with the nature of Union citizenship: i.e. that it should be in addition to national citizenship, not replace it. The new criterion for granting Union citizenship proposed by the EESC may open up new possibilities for residents who are not EU nationals.

Granting EU citizenship to third-country nationals who are stable or long-term residents is a positive step that demonstrates the EU's commitment to integrating all residents, regardless of nationality.

The Convention must consider whether the present political and legal bases are adequate or not for promoting integration.

The EESC calls on the Convention, in drafting the first EU Constitution, to apply the principle of equality to everyone, be they Member State or third country nationals, who resides on a legal and stable basis in the Union.

The EESC calls on the Convention to provide a new criterion for granting Union citizenship: citizenship should be linked not only to nationality of a Member State, but also to stable residence in the Union.

The EESC therefore proposes to the Convention that Article 7 (Citizenship of the Union) be granted not only to nationals of the Member States but to all persons who reside on a stable or long-term basis in the European Union. Union citizenship will be additional to but will not replace national citizenship. In this way such persons will be European citizens and therefore equal before the law.