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  • Cited by 7
  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: July 2009

12 - Contested Boundaries: Citizens, States, and Supranational Belonging in the European Union



In the contemporary European Union (EU), the European Parliament includes a Belgian citizen representing an Italian constituency and an Italian citizen representing a Belgian constituency. A national court's reference to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) allowed a British citizen to circumvent nationality requirements and become a student teacher in Germany. Ongoing legal challenges opened the vast majority of public sector employment to Europeans on the basis of their qualifications rather than their nationality. Even the citizens of nonmember countries that are associated only with the EU successfully invoke ECJ legal interpretation; Algerians and Moroccans have been convincing the highest French courts to grant supplemental pension benefits that the national administration refused to “export” to nonresidents. Yet against all this transnational activity, less than 2 percent of Europeans reside outside their home country within the EU, and an even smaller fraction work in another EU Member State. Both EU institutions and national courts respect states' rights to restrict “sensitive” public service posts, including positions in prisons and the military, to their own nationals. And EU Member States unanimously agreed to limit a long list of social welfare benefits to residents within their territories, with the approval of the ECJ.

Such discrepancies suggest that shifts toward a more European basis for belonging coexist with enduring commitments to national and territorially bounded communities. Indeed, formal advances toward a supranational community of Europeans have persistently coincided with efforts to preserve national distinctions and to resist EU encroachments.

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