Dear Madam or Sir,
Let me first thank you for your email expressing your support for my amendment 882 asking for “associate EU citizenship” for citizens whose country withdrew from the European Union.
I am aware that you are numerous to worry about your future and I was actually overwhelmed by your spontaneous and many times very personal reactions that you shared with me in your emails.
Please accept my apologies for not being able to answer each and every email personally, but I want to let you know that me and my staff looked at every single email that was sent to me.
I would like to take the opportunity to explain the idea behind my amendment, which hopefully also gives an answer to the concerns that some of you have raised.
I tabled my amendment to the own-initiative draft report by Guy Verhofstadt entitled “Possible evolutions of and adjustments to the current institutional set-up of the European Union”, which aims at looking at the possibilities to improve the functioning of the European Union by a change of the Treaties. I have to acknowledge that these proposals are set-down in a so-called “own-initiative” report, and thus carry no legal weight at this stage. However, with the Brexit negotiations coming to a term, and given that the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, as one of the larger Member States, and as the largest non-euro-area member, affects the strength and the institutional balance of the Union, the European Union will have to revise its Treaties. This is where Mr. Verhofstadt’s report could serve as a basis for the revision.
In fact, in his report, Mr. Verhofstadt raises the idea of a type of “associate status”, which could be proposed “to those states in the periphery that only want to participate on the sideline, i.e. in some specific Union policies”, underlining that “this status should be accompanied by obligations corresponding to the associated rights”. This new type of “associate status” could thus be one of the possible outcomes of the negotiations about the future relationship between the EU and the UK. My proposed amendment could hence go hand in hand with Mr. Verhofstadt’s proposal and could be seen as a solution satisfying all UK citizens who wish to maintain a close relationship with the EU, whether they live in or outside the UK territory.
Of course, some might argue that the “associate EU citizenship” would grant UK citizens a privilege that EU citizens, who might have to quit their jobs in the UK, do not enjoy. Yet, we have considered this issue and therefore propose that the associate citizens pay an annual membership fee directly into the EU budget as an own resource of the Union, following the reciprocal principle of ‘no taxation without representation’.
Citizens, who, against their will, are being stripped of their European identity, are likely to tumble into situations, which may entail personal tragedies. Some of those concerned might even never have lived in the UK and yet be forced to move to a country that they might only know through visiting their relatives or spending their holidays. Imagine a UK national living abroad for decades but never staying long enough in one country to be eligible for citizenship in this host country. This is actually the case for some, as I have witnessed through your emails. An EU that praises mobility and thus makes it possible for all its citizens to travel throughout the continent without borders should become active when this great achievement is at stake.
Finally yet importantly, I want to point out that I am perfectly aware that all of the above is far easier said than done.
Currently the Treaties specify that European citizenship stems directly from the national citizenship of its Member States. However, it also specifies that citizenship of the Union is additional to and does not replace national citizenship. Creating an individual citizenship to the Union would thus require treaty change, not in the least to specify its rights and duties, but it would not infringe upon national citizenship.
My proposal is first of all a political impulse to push the boundaries, on different levels. In fact, at a first stage, the coming six weeks are going to be decisive when the Committee for Constitutional Affairs is going to vote on the report and my amendment on 21 November and later, in December, when Parliament as a whole will be called to pronounce its opinion at plenary level. In the meantime, I will have to gather the required majority in this house to pass this amendment by convincing my colleagues of the necessity to make a statement.
At a later stage, when it comes to the negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and the UK, my idea could also serve as a means to convince the UK government to accept freedom of movement of people along with the other three freedoms, which the European Single Market seeks to guarantee.
In all the cases mentioned above and in particular in the eventual case of treaty change, political determination will be of utmost importance and I will definitely not content myself by truckling to those who consider my proposal unfeasible. I am determined to bring this idea as far as I possibly can on the European level. Indeed, history proves me right when we look at the achievements, which European citizens enjoy nowadays. Who thought, for instance, that one day, EU citizenship would give every EU citizen the right to vote for and stand as a candidate in municipal and European Parliament elections in whichever EU country the citizen resides, under the same conditions as nationals. This is reality today and yes, it needed a tremendous effort and, above all, the political determination to get this far. Why not exert ourselves for this cause and make the “associate EU citizenship” happen?
P.S. What can YOU do? A great number of UK MEPs have already expressed their support for the “associate EU citizenship”. Make sure that they are going to persuade their colleagues in their respective political groups to back this proposal, too.
Please note that similar initiatives are currently under way. Feel free to support those, too.