"Citizenship of the Union is hereby established. Every person holding the nationality of a Member State shall be a citizen of the Union. Citizenship of the Union shall be additional to and not replace national citizenship.”
— Article 20 on the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union
Citizenship of the European Union was created in 1993 and, as stated above, is in addition to one’s citizenship of their member country. It means that it is not possible to be an EU citizen without being a citizen of an EU country, and that all citizens of EU countries are EU citizens — hence the words “European Union” at the top of EU passports. Although the European Court of Justice has attracted some criticism from more eurosceptic-minded people for stating that: “EU Citizenship is destined to be the fundamental status of nationals of the Member States” — this may mean that EU Citizenship could replace national citizenship in the long run.
Individual member states are responsible for their own rules on who can become an EU citizen, meaning there is no single policy on how people can become EU citizens. It is not possible to renounce European citizenship without renouncing national citizenship.
Citizenship of the European Union grants the citizen in question certain rights which they would not normally have in other countries, as well as some standard rights which can be enjoyed by resident non-citizens as well. Every citizen has the right to:
- Vote and stand as a candidate in elections to the European Parliament, in any EU country.
- Vote and stand in local elections of any member state in which they’re resident, under the same conditions as a citizen of that country.
- Petition the European Commission through the European Citizens Initiative (external link).
- Write to any of the European Institutions in any official (or co-official) language of the Union and receive a reply in that same language. (These include English, Irish, Scots Gaelic and Welsh.)
- Live and work in any EU member state (plus Efta countries Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) and the right to work in any position in these countries.
- Not be discriminated against because of your nationality, whether it be by a potential employer or a government.
- Consular protection abroad from the embassy of another member country where your own does not have an embassy.
There are some limitations to these rules, particularly to the Freedom of Movement; EU members may place restrictions on immigrants from new member countries for a maximum of seven years. Efta countries may place these restrictions for a maximum of nine years.