Union citizenship

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The Citizenship of the European Union have all nationals of the Member States of the European Union , according to Art. 20 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and Art. 9 , sentence 2 and 3 of the EU Treaty . Union citizenship gives rise to a number of rights for Union citizens, particularly in the other Member States of which they are not citizens.

Passport control at Madrid-Barajas airport with diversion for Union citizens (and Swiss, Norwegians, Icelanders), 2009

Nationals of a Member State

Union citizenship is not a separate citizenship , but complements national citizenship without replacing it. European law therefore does not make any independent regulations on the acquisition of Union citizenship. This is problematic insofar as there are different categories of nationality in individual Member States. Some of the residents of specific areas of the European Union do not have full citizenship rights. This applies on the one hand to the non-European territories of the member states, but on the other hand also to areas with special status in Europe. It also raises (not yet fully resolved) issues related to European citizenship. There are nationals of certain Member States who are not Union citizens and others whose citizenship and thus Union citizenship is suspended.

In a declaration on the Maastricht Treaty it was stipulated that the member states can announce which group of people is to be regarded as a separate national within the meaning of Union law. It is therefore up to the Member States alone to determine which of their nationals receive the status of Union citizen.

Danish nationals without EU citizenship

The autonomous Faroe Islands are Danish territory, the Faroe Islands have Danish citizenship. When Denmark joined the EC, however, it was stated in the Accession Treaty that the Faroe Islands would not join the EC. Article 4 of Protocol No. 2 to the Act of Accession thus stipulates that nationals residing in the Faroe Islands are not regarded as nationals of a Member State. Greenlanders are also Danish nationals. However, the autonomous Danish territory of Greenland was retroactively excluded from the scope of the Treaties in 1985. The Faroese and Greenlanders have Danish passports. Instead of “Den Europæiske Union”, however, it reads “Føroyar” or “Kalaallit Nunaat”. This also makes it clear to the outside world that the members of the autonomous Danish regions are not Union citizens. In practice, however, Faroese and Greenlanders have the choice of having a local or a European passport issued.

Nationals of the British Crown without Union citizenship

After the United Kingdom left the European Union, nationals of that country lost their citizenship. The British Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, as well as the Isle of Man, as the direct crown property of the British royal family, were not part of the United Kingdom and were not part of the EU according to Art. 355 (5) TFEU. The Manxers and the inhabitants of the Channel Islands were therefore basically not Union citizens. The islanders with (grand) parents from the United Kingdom who were born there or who have resided in the United Kingdom for a period of at least five years had, according to Article 6 of Protocol No. 3 to the Act of Accession, through this close connection with the United Kingdom also acquired citizenship. As a result of this regulation, only a few islanders did not enjoy the advantages of Union citizenship status. There were British passports "British Islands Bailiwick of Guernsey" with the imprint "European Union" or without it. The same applied to Jersey and the Isle of Man. Regardless of this, the islanders, as “British Citizens”, are first-rate British citizens.

Dormant European citizenship

The Spanish nationality law recognizes a "dormant nationality" due to various agreements on dual nationality with twelve Latin American countries. Spanish nationals who move to one of these countries and acquire local citizenship there will not lose their Spanish citizenship; However, this is suspended until a possible new residence in Spain. With this suspension, all rights and obligations arising from Spanish citizenship temporarily expire, including EU citizenship. The emigrated Spaniards and their descendants are thus a kind of Union citizen waiting. This legal instrument will gradually be applied retrospectively to Spaniards and their descendants who emigrated before the regulation came into force, if they submit a corresponding declaration.

Loss of Union citizenship through loss of citizenship

The nationality law of the member states provides for a loss of nationality under certain conditions by law or by administrative act, e.g. B. by voluntarily accepting another citizenship or by withdrawing a fraudulent naturalization. If the other nationality is that of a third country, Union citizenship is automatically lost. There are voices in the literature who view this critically, as a national decision intervenes in a European legal position. With the Rottmann ruling in 2010 , the ECJ made it clear that nationality law is fundamentally the responsibility of the national legislature and that the withdrawal of nationality by fraudulent activity is also compatible with European law . This applies even if the person concerned becomes stateless as a result. However, in the context of proportionality considerations, the loss of Union citizenship must be taken into account. This may make it necessary to give the person concerned a period in which he can try to regain the citizenship of his or her home Member State.

Union citizenship if you have multiple citizenship

If the national of a member state has another nationality or several of third countries, Union citizenship remains unaffected. The other nationalities are irrelevant, but they also exist with all the resulting rights and obligations under the national law of the third countries. It is not up to the member states to judge the effectiveness of the citizenship of another member state according to their own national law. For example, a Spanish legal provision according to which priority is given to nationality that corresponds to the habitual residence of the person concerned prior to his entry into Spain is not applicable if this restricts a Union citizen in this legal position.

The citizen in the Union

Common design of the passports of the members of the European Union
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Color burgundy red, name and coat of arms of the member state and title European Union

The concept of Union citizenship was introduced in 1992 by the Maastricht Treaty in Article 17 of the EC Treaty . Citizens who are citizens of a Member State of the European Union have automatically been citizens of the Union since 1992. Since December 1, 2009, Union citizenship has been regulated by the Lisbon Treaty in Art. 20 on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Union citizenship complements national citizenship, but does not replace it. The acquisition of a national citizenship is based exclusively on the respective national law. In Germany, non-German Union citizens are colloquially referred to as EU foreigners .

Union citizenship creates a legal relationship between the citizen and the Union that includes rights and obligations. However, obligations for citizens (such as European military service) have not yet been provided for. The rights include in particular:


For EU citizens, the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of nationality, which follows from Art. 18 sentence 1 TFEU, applies . This means that any legal disadvantage of the Union citizen, especially against a national, but also against other foreigners ( third-country nationals ) is prohibited. Conversely, this means that the Union citizen is entitled to the most favorable legal position that any other person would be entitled to on the basis of nationality (so-called most-favored nation treatment). Privileges based on bilateral agreements thus have an indirect effect on all Union citizens.

A distinction must be made between direct and indirect discrimination. Direct discrimination is based directly on (foreign) nationality. This occurs when foreigners are excluded from certain services, their legal violations are sanctioned higher or they have to pay higher fees. Indirect discrimination occurs if the worse legal position is not based on foreign nationality, but z. B. results from a place of residence abroad - a place of residence abroad typically has foreigners. It is often difficult to determine whether there has been a violation of the indirect ban on discrimination. Just because more EU foreigners than nationals are affected by an onerous general ruling does not have to be discriminatory. However, if the order is intended to target foreigners in a targeted manner, this would be inadmissible.

However, a worse position is not prohibited if it is permitted by European law or if it is based on appropriate reasons. For example, in the event of traffic violations, the collection of a security deposit against those affected who do not have a permanent place of residence in Germany is also permitted against Union citizens as long as the international agreements on the enforcement of the fine abroad are not effective. However, a higher administrative burden for sending notices, etc. abroad, if these can ultimately actually be enforced, is not a proper reason. There is now a framework decision on the EU arrest warrant . That is why it is no longer necessary to make it easier to request pre-trial detention and security for EU citizens who live in another Member State. This simplified requirement is therefore inadmissible.

Since Union citizens can only assert their European rights within the scope of European law, so-called domestic discrimination is permissible under European law . This means that the Member State may assign its own citizens a worse legal position than foreign Union citizens. For example, a qualifying training (master craftsman's certificate) can be required of one's own nationals in order to be allowed to practice a certain trade, while Union citizens can only be required to have a professional qualification and the corresponding professional experience that entitles them to practice the trade in their country of origin.

Discrimination against nationals is softened by the fact that nationals who return to their home country after a (longer) stay in another Member State are not placed in a worse position than in their temporary country of residence. They do not have to give up the legal positions they have acquired there at home. If a German electrician (skilled worker) who ran an installation company in the Netherlands and trained apprentices there should return to Germany after a few years, he should not be refused the establishment of a company and apprenticeship training with reference to the lack of a German master craftsman's certificate.

The compulsory master craftsman's trade and the resulting discrimination against nationals were weakened by the 2004 amendment to the trade law .

Free movement: right to residence and economic activity

According to Art. 21 (1) TFEU, every EU citizen has the right to freedom of movement. The specific conditions for exercising freedom of movement rights are regulated by the Directive on freedom of movement 2004/38 / EC . This means that every EU citizen basically has the right to move freely within the European Union, to enter and reside in any other Member State. However, this right of residence can be restricted to safeguard the legitimate interests of the member states. However, this requires a current, serious threat to a basic interest of society, which is caused by the personal behavior of the person concerned. The longer you stay in another Member State, the higher the intervention threshold for the termination of your stay.

Specifically, according to Article 6 of the Free Movement Directive, every EU citizen has the right to stay in any Member State for up to three months with a valid passport or identity card. Article 7 regulates the right to a longer stay, whereby certain requirements apply to proof of a secure livelihood and comprehensive health insurance cover and u. a. a distinction is made between employees, students and trainees as well as family members.

In addition to the right of residence component, the right of free movement includes the opportunity to be economically active in any member state, i.e. to be employed or self-employed, to provide services, etc. To protect the labor market from uncontrolled immigration, new states join the EU as a rule Adopt transitional provisions that temporarily restrict the free movement of workers and their accompanying rights (posting of workers, employee leasing). These transitional provisions initially apply for three years, but can be extended to up to seven years after two evaluations of the further necessity. The individual member states are free to use national legislation to grant a legal position comparable to the free movement of workers. The other freedom of movement, in particular the right of residence, remain unaffected by the transitional provisions.

social benefits

EU citizens can apply for up to three months in another EU country to receive the benefits they would be entitled to in the EU country where they were previously employed. This period can be extended to up to six months in justified cases.

EU member states must treat EU citizens equally in terms of social law. Notwithstanding this, the Member States can exclude incoming EU citizens from receiving social assistance benefits for three months (Article 24, paragraph 2 of the Free Movement of Persons Directive ). The European Court of Justice (ECJ) also confirmed that it is compatible with EU law to exclude EU citizens looking for work from Hartz IV benefits for three months without checking individual cases ( see also: Employable beneficiaries # foreigners and unemployment benefit II # beneficiaries ).

The German Federal Social Court ruled in spring 2016 that EU foreigners must be awarded social assistance after a stay of six months. Federal Labor Minister Andrea Nahles (SPD) reacted to this in April 2016 with a draft law, according to which EU foreigners should only be entitled to Hartz IV after five years of residence . The draft law entered parliamentary deliberations in autumn 2016. The draft law passed by the federal government in October 2016 is to apply to EU citizens who have never worked in Germany; Unemployed EU foreigners should, however, be able to receive bridging benefits for one month (e.g. for food and accommodation) as well as a loan for the costs of the return journey to their home country . The law was passed at the end of 2016.

In Norway , people who received social benefits and lived abroad were criminalized for years. However, this contradicts the rules on freedom of movement within the EEA .

In the run-up to the referendum on Brexit , the member states agreed that in the event that immigration from EU states increases to an “exceptional level”, Great Britain can apply for a “protective mechanism” to provide additional social benefits for all EU foreigners who have not already four years of working in the country to cancel. This protective mechanism can last up to seven years.

Applicants without a right of residence can be refused child benefit after a judgment of the ECJ.

Local suffrage

Art. 22 TFEU ​​grants every Union citizen residing in a Member State of which he is not a national the right to vote and standfor election in local elections in his place of residence under the same conditions as nationals of that State.

European electoral law

Every EU citizen has the right to vote in elections to the European Parliament . As a rule, he exercises this right in the country in which he lives. However, he can also apply to vote in his country of origin, i.e. the country of his nationality, instead.

Multiple voting (e.g. in the country of residence and in the country of origin or in the case of dual citizenship in both countries of origin) is not permitted, but can hardly be prevented at the moment due to the inadequate exchange of information between the EU countries. The announcement that Die Zeit editor-in-chief Giovanni di Lorenzo had cast double votes in the 2014 European elections led to 44 objections to the validity of the election. The Bundestag's electoral review committee rejected all objections on February 5, 2015 as "unfounded". It was argued that only this one case was known and that this apparently had no influence on the outcome of the European elections. The statement of Bundestag Vice- President Johannes Singhammers was: In view of a “considerable number” of dual nationals, there is an urgent need for action to close this loophole. According to the Federal Returning Officer , the simplest solution would be if dual nationals were only allowed to vote in their “Member State of residence” in future. In 2015 the European Parliament proposed a reform of the European electoral law, which provides for a better exchange of information between the member states in order to avoid double voting.

Diplomatic and consular protection

Worldwide distribution of embassies from EU member states

If their home state is not represented in a third state, a Union citizen has the diplomatic and consular protection of any other member state. This protection extends to assistance in the event of death, serious accidents or illness, assistance in the event of arrest or imprisonment, assistance to victims of violent crime and assistance to Union citizens in need and their repatriation. This right is anchored in Art. 23 TFEU:

“Every citizen of the Union enjoys the diplomatic and consular protection of each Member State on the territory of a third country in which the Member State of which he is a national is not represented under the same conditions as nationals of that country. The member states agree the necessary rules and initiate the international negotiations necessary for this protection. "

Council Directive (EU) 2015/637 of April 20, 2015 clarifies under what circumstances and in what form EU citizens are entitled to support from embassies or consulates of other EU countries if they get into an emergency outside the EU .

Right of petition and complaint

Every citizen of the Union has the right to petition the European Parliament on matters which fall within the areas of activity of the Community and which directly affect him in accordance with Article 24 (1) in conjunction with Article 227 TFEU . Citizens of the Union can appeal to the European Ombudsman ( Art. 29 in conjunction with Art. 228 TFEU) with complaints about maladministration in the activities of the organs or institutions of the Union .

Privileged third country nationals

The right of free movement and the ban on discrimination apply in accordance with Art. 326 and Art. 20 TEU and Art. 4 and 28 of the Agreement on the European Economic Area (EEA Agreement) also for the citizens of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

With the bilateral treaties between the EU and Switzerland, these rights were in principle extended to Swiss citizens, but there are marginal deviations.

Free movement rights also apply to certain family members of Union citizens. These do not have their own right of free movement, but derive this from the legal status of the Union citizen etc.

The citizens of the EEA countries and Switzerland as well as the privileged family members are still third-country nationals and not Union citizens.

Based on resolutions of the Association Council of the EEC - Turkey, certain Turkish nationals who are employed in a Member State and their family members also enjoy a comparable legal status. However, this legal status is restricted to this Member State.


As of 1 January 2018, of the 512.4 million people living in the EU, 22.3 million (4.4%) were non-EU citizens and 0.825 million (0.16%) were in an EU the previous year -Land has been naturalized.


  • Dennis-Jonathan Mann / Kai Purnhagen: The Nature of Union Citizenship between Autonomy and Dependency on (Member) State Citizenship - A Comparative Analysis of the Rottmann Ruling, or: How to Avoid a European Dred Scott Decision? ACELG Working Paper Series 09/2011, available at [1] .
  • Nikolaos Kotalakidis: From National Citizenship to Union Citizenship - the Person and the Community . Nomos, Baden-Baden 2000.
  • Wolfgang D. Kramer (Ed.): European Union Citizenship. A new perspective for German policy on foreigners . State Center for Political Education Hamburg, Hamburg 1996.
  • Willem Maas: Creating European Citizens . Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham 2007.
  • Peter-Christian Müller-Graff (Ed.): European integration law in cross-section: European constitution, Nice, European economic area, Union citizenship, referendums, Community private law . Heidelberg Jean Monnet Lectures on the Law of European Integration. Nomos, Baden-Baden 2003.
  • Ingo Niemann: From Union Citizenship to Social Union? - Comment on the judgment of the ECJ of March 23, 2004, Case C-138/02 (Collins) . In: European law (EuR). In connection with the Scientific Society for European Law, Volume 39 (2004), Volume 2, pp. 946–953.
  • Melanie Reddig: Citizens beyond the state? Union citizenship as a means of European integration . Nomos, Baden-Baden 2005.
  • Christine Sauerwald: Union citizenship and citizenship law in the member states of the European Union. Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1996.
  • Christoph Schönberger: Union citizen. Europe's federal citizenship in a comparative perspective . Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2005.
  • Simone Staeglich: Rights and Duties from European Citizenship . In: Yearbook of the European Association for Education Law and Policy, Vol. 6 (2003), pp. 485-531.
  • Ferdinand Wollenschläger : Basic freedom without a market. The development of Union citizenship in the free movement regime under Union law . Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2007.
  • Gerard-Rene de Groot: On the relationship between European citizenship and nationalities in the European Union. In Peter-Christian Müller-Graff (Ed.): European integration law in cross section. Heidelberger Schriften zum Wirtschaftsrecht und Europarecht, Volume 10. Nomos Verlagsgesellschaft, Baden-Baden 2002, pp. 67–85.
  • Helgo Eberwein, Anna-Zoe Steiner: Union citizenship according to Art. 20 TFEU: “We do not create a union of states, we unite people” , FABL 3/2012-I, pp. 35–40.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. "Rottmann" case C-135/08 ECJ judgment of March 2, 2010
  2. ^ "Micheletti" Rev. C-369/90 . ECJ judgment of 7 July 1992.
  3. Transfer of unemployment benefits. In: europa.eu. January 24, 2019, accessed April 7, 2019 .
  4. Christian Rath: EU foreigners stay in Germany for three months without Hartz IV. Vorwärts, February 25, 2016, accessed on June 14, 2016 .
  5. Welt.de: Röttgen brings historical taboos into play
  6. Cabinet resolution Federal government wants to restrict social benefits for EU citizens. Spiegel, October 12, 2016, accessed October 12, 2016 .
  7. Law on the regulation of claims of foreign persons in the basic security for jobseekers according to the second book of the social code and in the social assistance according to the twelfth book of the social code BGBl. 2016 I p. 3155
  8. ^ Judicially approved breach of law. In: www.sueddeutsche.de. November 6, 2019, accessed November 7, 2019 .
  9. Deal with Great Britain: What Cameron Negotiated. Spiegel, February 20, 2016, accessed June 14, 2016 .
  10. Judgment: British are allowed to refuse EU citizens child benefit. Spiegel, June 14, 2016, accessed June 14, 2016 .
  11. a b Giovanni di Lorenzo - European elections legally despite double voting , Süddeutsche Zeitung of February 6, 2015
  12. Press release of the European Parliament, Parliament calls for EU electoral law reform: Spitzenkandidaten and threshold clauses , November 11, 2015.
  13. Consular protection for EU citizens abroad. European Commission, May 11, 2017, accessed May 11, 2017 .
  14. ↑ Council Directive (EU) 2015/637 of April 20, 2015 , accessed on May 11, 2017
  15. ^ Agreement on the European Economic Area
  16. ^ Migration and migrant population statistics. In: Eurostat. March 2019, accessed June 27, 2019 .