Identities and Citizenship in the Enlarging Europe

Seminar Paper, 2003

12 Pages, Grade: 10,00







The current process of enlargement of the European Union, which will integrate eight new member states of the former Eastern bloc in May 2004 (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia), is going to make a historical turning point in defining new concepts of identity and citizenship. Given the different historical development of these concepts between the East and the West, a question must be raised as to how the newly established European citizenship is going to influence the traditional cultural, national or ethnic identities.

This difference can be traced back in the classical period of history when the concept of “exclusive” citizenship of the Greek polis (limited to ethnic Greeks and free men only) was followed by the concept of “inclusive” citizenship of the Roman Empire (extended to all free inhabitants of the Empire after Caracalla’s Edict in 212 AD)[1]. Since the formation of modern nations in the 18th century this difference has deepened so that we can speak of the Western/civic and the Eastern/ethnic concept of national identity. In the West, nations have grown up within established states, which became representatives of the nation understood as a community of individual citizens enjoying equal rights within the given territory. In the East, on the contrary, national identity evolved in opposition to dynastic empires and thus was defined primarily in terms of cultural, ethnic or linguistic self-determination seeking to form nation(s) within the given state[2]. Among scholars this has been identified as a distinction between the state-nation (gesellschaft) and the culture-nation (gemeinschaft)[3].


This contrast, of course, cannot be understood in absolute terms. Polish and Hungarian national identities, for instance, developed in the 18th century under the influence of French Revolution and intended to include all inhabitants of the country on the basis of the civic concept. It was the German romanticism of the 19th century that forced the ethnic concept in these two countries to prevail. On the other hand, the West European civic concept was challenged many times especially in war, when it used to yield to the ethnic calls for “blood and soil”[4]. Nevertheless, this distinction between the two concepts remains as an important issue to be considered, particularly when questioning the European identity of the Central and East European countries.

If these countries are expected, when joining the West (that is European Union), to adopt the civic concept rather than the ethnic one, it should be noted that the image of the West, as a system of strong states with clear territorial borders, has changed. Ever deepening integration within the EU and the pressures of economic globalisation has eroded the meaning of sovereign nation-states. Therefore, many citizens even in the member-states of the EU feel anxious about their national and cultural identity. Globalisation of mass communications, international travel and free movement of labour and capital caused many Europeans to develop a range of particular and small-scale “hybrid” identities along with the national one, understood as that of a civic nation-state[5]. Among these identities the predominant one depends on the context, which creates a “kaleidoscope of identities” with constantly changing colours[6].

In the East people struggle to keep a minimum level of material welfare in order to overcome the problems of economic transition, which leads to scepticism about the state’s political ability to protect the national interest. Yet, this has not brought mass support to extreme nationalist politics in the Eastern countries (with exception of the former Yugoslavia). New Democracies Barometer survey of 1998 shows only 31% of primary identification with the nation-state among the respondents of twelve Central and Eastern European countries[7].

With the end of the Cold War boundaries are moving, thus creating transnational articulation of the societies. Similar challenges are faced both in the East and in the West. The above statements on multiplicity of identities, however, have to be amended by saying that if this transnational concept of identities is seen as a “threat from the other” then it may force the given society to seek shelter once again in ethnicity, religious fundamentalism, xenophobia or racism[8].

In the post-communist countries ethnic identification strives to define oneself as opposition to the “other”, which can be seen as legacy of the communist doctrine of “eternal enemy threatening from abroad”. In the Balkans in particular, the “other” is found in the minorities within the country who are often perceived as a constant threat to stability of the nation. Thus every effort of the majority at nation-state building in post-communism inclines to create injustice for the minorities. Ethnic conflicts are more likely to escalate if the minority claims for self-government are refused, while granting of these claims highly diminishes the possibility of violence[9]. This is evident from the case of dissolution of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia where the minority claims were constantly denied by the Federal Government in Belgrade up to the point when declaration of independence of the “minority republics” was followed by the most violent conflict since the World War II in Europe, imposed from the “federal majority”. Once independent, the former minority becomes the majority within their new nation-state, which further creates minorities within its territory so the circulus viciosus keeps running. Probably the best term to apply to such kind of political rule is ethnocracy. It can be defined as a type of rule in which power is concentrated in the hands of leaders who promote themselves as qualified to defend the national interests while the ruled masses are collectively defined by common culture, religion, history, myths and presumed descent[10]. In order to reach their political aims, such ethnocratic leaders destroy complex social relations, independent social institutions and development of civic society. A reported statement of a Bosnian Serb leader from the period of the conflict that the Serbs could not accept to be turned into citizens became notorious. In ethnocratic programs, in which the nation is seen as a natural community, identification with and loyalty to the nation does not involve choice but acceptance of the obligation to serve the mission of the nation. In this way, democratic citizenship is essentially endangered[11].


Citizenship is a relationship between an individual and a state in which an individual owes allegiance to that state and in turn is entitled to its protection. Citizenship implies the status of freedom with accompanying responsibilities. Citizens have certain rights, duties, and responsibilities that are denied or only partially extended to aliens and other non-citizens residing in a country. In general, full political rights, including the right to vote and to hold public office, are predicated upon citizenship. The usual responsibilities of citizenship are allegiance, taxation, and military service[12]. Nationality, on the other hand, is a broader term that includes various relations between individual and the state, which does not necessarily confer full political rights but do imply other privileges such as protection abroad. Unlike citizenship, a corporation, a ship or an aircraft can possess nationality[13].

In the East, during the communist era, political rights such as the right to free association were highly limited, if not abolished. In turn, people were granted social rights in order to protect the basic material needs of the working class. The concept of “worker” replaced that of “citizen” so that these were social rights without citizenship[14]. During the transition period the most people of these societies expected these rights to be kept, if not extended, along with the gained civil and political rights. The situation, however, developed in the opposite way: rise of unemployment, production crisis, neglect of social questions and creation of social inequalities lead the population to disappointment of the new liberal democratic values and to the feeling that “communism was better”[15].

The question of citizenship and civil rights of the working class was elaborated by T.H. Marshall. Paying attention to the position of the working class in England after the World War II where they were separated from the “common culture” of the society, he proposed the best way for re-integration of this class would be granting the material and social rights through the welfare state, thus creating the concept of “ideal citizenship”. From this perspective, however, it is clear that this concept cannot be taken as universal, because there are many groups such as non-white immigrants, women, religious or sexual minorities who are still not integrated in the common culture of democratic citizenship although they enjoy individual civil and social rights[16]. Citizenship means active participation in the sphere of political decision-making through freedom of voluntary association, and this is the space between public and private spheres, acting like a “reservoir of citizenship”[17].

In the society, which recognizes collectively differentiated rights, members of certain groups are incorporated into political community not only as individuals but through the membership of that group as well. This can be described as “differentiated citizenship”. Liberal theorists have criticized this idea as being contrary to the very notion of citizenship. By definition, citizenship treats the people as individuals with equal rights and who are committed to integrate for the common cause. If citizenship is differentiated, it loses its integrative function and the sense of common cause, thus endangering the stability of the political community. Strong institutions and procedures of liberal democracies are not sufficient to prevent disintegration of the society, unless accompanied by at least minimum level of civic virtue and public spirit of the commonwealth[18]. As an example, we can again refer to the situation in the Balkans. Based on the ethnocratic model, the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina (incorporated in the General Framework Agreement for Peace signed in Dayton 1995) provides for differentiated citizenship through the representation of group identities of the three “constituent peoples”: Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs. In order to enjoy full political rights, including the right to hold a public office, an individual is expected to represent and act on behalf of one of these three group identities rather than as a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This not only makes unequal those individuals who do not belong to any of the three recognized groups, but also renders the real citizenship virtually non-existent. This problem is sure to be dealt with when discussing the prospects of Bosnia and Herzegovina within the Stabilisation and Association Process with the European Union.


[1] Шнапер, Доминик. “Заједница грађана: О модерној идеји нације”. Нови Сад: Издавачка књижарница Зорана Стојановића; 1996. pp. 111-118.

[2] Amato, Giuliano and Batt, Judy. “The Long-Term Implications of EU Enlargement: The Nature of the New Border”. Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies and European University Institute Florence with the Forward Studies Unit of the European Commission; 1999. p. 20.

[3] Шнапер. 1996. pp. 128, 216.

[4] Amato, Giuliano and Batt, Judy. 1999. p. 22.

[5] Ibid. p. 23.

[6] Driscoll, Dennis. “The Challenges of Globalisation”. Council of Europe. 2001-2002: Colloquy in Three Parts on the European Identity [Web Page]. Accessed 2003 Jul 13. Available at:

[7] Amato, Giuliano and Batt, Judy. 1999. pp. 24-25.

[8] Bianchini, Stefano. “Post Communism, Post-Westfalianism. Overcoming the Nation-State”. In Bianchini, Stefano; Schoepflin, George, and Shoup, Paul, ed. Post-Communist Transition as a European Problem. Ravenna: Longo Editore; 2002; pp. 196-197.

[9] Kroumova, Malina. “Defining the Parameters of State Policy towards Minorities: the Balkan Experience in the 90's”. In Bianchini, Stefano; Schoepflin, George, and Shoup, Paul, ed. Post-Communist Transition as a European Problem. Ravenna: Longo Editore; 2002; pp. 139-140.

[10] Mostov, Julie. “Soft Borders: Rethinking Sovereignty and Democracy”. In Bianchini, Stefano; Schoepflin, George, and Shoup, Paul, ed. Post-Communist Transition as a European Problem. Ravenna: Longo Editore; 2002; p. 157.

[11] Ibid. pp. 160-161.

[12] "Citizenship." Encyclopædia Britannica, from Encyclopædia Britannica Deluxe Edition 2004 CD-ROM. Copyright © 1994-2003 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. May 30, 2003.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Heinen, Jacqueline. “Public/Private: Gender - Social and Political Citizenship in Eastern Europe”. In Theory and Society. 1997; 26: p. 583.

[15] Ibid. p. 584.

[16] Kymlicka, Will. “Multikulturno građanstvo”. In Dijalog. Sarajevo: 2001; 1-2. pp. 138-139.

[17] Heinen. 1997. pp. 590-593.

[18] Kymlicka. 2001. pp. 132-134.

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Identities and Citizenship in the Enlarging Europe
University of Sarajevo  (Centre for Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies)
European Politics and Society
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citizenship, European Union, identity
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Sead S. Fetahagić (Author), 2003, Identities and Citizenship in the Enlarging Europe, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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