Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region
of Spain in the Spring for several weeks

'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Sunday, 11 December 2016

EU Citizenship, Verhofstadt and actual EU law - or does this no longer matter?

I was startled to learn of the somewhat left-field proposal by Guy Verhofstadt (widely quoted in the media, but I include this BBC link here). Guy Verhofstadt, in case you have just crawled from out of some subterranean cavern, is actually an MEP from Belgium and is leader of one of the [minor] groupings in the European Parliament called "Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe", see his page here.

Mr Verhofstadt seems to be implying that a modification of "EU Law" can somehow be "fast-tracked" to allow "EU Citizenship" to be retained on an individual basis by UK citizens, when the UK leaves the EU, as seems to be likely a few years from now.

Now I do not doubt that that this may be a theoretical possibillity, but I think the likelihood of this or any other 'ad hoc' modification of EU Law being "fast tracked" is, ahem, illusory - it might happen after MANY years of tedious negotiation, but the idea such a change could be fast-tracked is just so much hot air, in my view.

To bring this whole nonsense proposal back down to some semblance of reality, here is what the official EU website says about the status of EU citizenship here:


What is EU citizenship?

- Any person who holds the nationality of an EU country is automatically also an EU citizen. EU citizenship is additional to and does not replace national citizenship. It is for each EU country to lay down the conditions for the acquisition and loss of nationality of that country.

- Citizenship of the Union is conferred directly on every EU citizen by the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU.
This seems to imply that the status of 'EU citizen' is entirely dependent on being a citizen of an EU member state. Whether it follows that if one is a citizen of a member state of the EU which ceases to be a member state of the EU that such a citizen might retain the status of EU citizen, is not at all clear, whatever Mr Verhofstadt may care to assert.

Frankly, though, I'd never heard of the "Treaty on the Functioning of the EU" before - as this is stated in the official website of the EU one must suppose it is a real thing and not just wishful thinking; have you heard of this before? By the way, if you want to 'blow your mind', you could always read this document and try to understand it - here. This is just a minor example of the "Alice in Wonderland" fantasy-land that the decision of the UK to leave the EU seeks to consign to unlamented history! My best reading of this fantasy is that it is a part, or apparently subsidiary to, the 'Lisbon Treaty'

I think what this whole [probably minor and best forgotten little nugget of an] episode reveals is just how much of a wake-up call the UK has delivered to the schlerotic EU and just how desperate it is to try and defuse this 'crisis' - that is to say, the decision of the UK electorate to leave this cosy (suffocating?) little club.

Natrually it is no surprise to learn that the UK political party, or the remnants of its following after recent elections, in both the UK and the EU, which participates in this frankly minor and inconsequential grouping, is the "Liberal Democrats" - as a true 'Liberal' and a true 'Democrat' I do not wish of course to try and and silence these people, rather do I celebrate the welcome diversity of views which they represent.

However, I would love to know the legal basis under which the so-called "associate citizenship" of Mr Verhosfstadt's fantasy-thinking might be conferred. It is either a naive declaration with little consensual acclaim (from the rest of the EU, or at least its two or three most influential members), or it is a sign of the increasing desperation of the EU hierarchy to try and respond, perforce feebly, to the existential crisis that the imminent departure of the UK from the EU represents. If EU citizenship does not depend on being a citizen of an EU member-state, on what does it depend? Is it proposed that any existing 'EU citizen' holds that status independently of a similar citizenship status of a member state of the EU? If this new status is to be conferred upon UK citizens, presumably it must apply also to citizens of all EU member states. If accepted as a valid EU treaty amendment (fast- or slow-tracked) it seems to imply that EU citizenship may be granted completely independently of any partuclar citizenship status of an EU member state. Is the EU, in Mr Verfofstadt's thinking, to abrogate to itself the power of granting citizenship of the EU to anyone, independently of whatever status they may or may not hold in any member (or former member) atate if the EU?

It strikes me that whilst the UK occasionally arrives at a pragmatic interpretation when responding to contemporary events, it would be highly unusual for an entity so hidebound by its own self-image as the EU to do likewise. Please wake me up when the dysfunctional EU actually bucks it historic reputation and shows it is capable of genuine change, not the kind of desperate gesture politics that Mr. Verhofstadt seems to be peddling.

1 comment:

  1. I am working as an EU immigration lawyer for the state (the Netherlands) and I fully agree with you.
    It is legally not possible, without changing the Treaty, which will not happen.
    It is politically not possible because will lead to selfdestruction of the EU ( domino effect making other country to try cherry picking).
    What make me sad is to watch the reactions in the Independent. So many remainers who want to believe it is true. Shame on Guy Verhofstadt!

    You will find this article interesting: http://www.politico.eu/article/uk-associated-citizenship-eu-brexit-verhofstadt-barnier/

    ReplyDelete

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