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As the Cambridge Dictionary affirms, citizenship is “the state of being a member of a particular country and having rights because of it”. Before talking about rights and duties of European citizen, it is necessary to know that European citizenship was established in 1992 by the Maastricht Treaty on the European Union and is the legal status of every person who belongs to a member state of the European Union.

Through the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997 the meaning was deepened, defining the European citizenship as a complement to national citizenship, whose purpose is to establish solidarity among populations and foster the political integration of the Member States.


Anyone with the citizenship of a Member State is a citizen of the European Union. EU citizenship is complementary to national citizenship and it does not replace it, since it is an autonomous legal and political notion. Moreover, EU citizenship is something more than a simple set of right: it entails the existence of a political connection between European citizens. All European citizens are required a mutual commitment to open their respective political communities to others and to build a new form of civic and political solidarity on a European scale.

Being European citizen gives rise some important additional rights, but also responsibilities. Among the main rights, there are free movement and establishment rights. As EU citizen, anyone can live and move throughout the European Union without any nationality discriminations.  Furthermore, the citizen can establish himself in any EU country, provided that certain conditions are respected, depending on his/her status as a worker, student or other.

The freedom of movement and establishment are defined by the article 45 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights:

1. Every citizen of the Union has the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States. 2. Freedom of movement and residence may be granted, in accordance with the Treaty establishing the European Community, to nationals of third countries legally resident in the territory of a Member State.

Among EU citizen rights and duties there is also the right to petition to the European Parliament, governed by Article 227 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which allows any European citizen to submit a petition (complaint or request) to the European Parliament on a subject for which the Union is competent.

Petitions can be:

Any citizen or EU resident, or business or association in an EU country, can lodge a complaint with the European Ombudsman.

European Ombudsmen are completely independent and impartial in the performance of their duties. Their main objective is to support EU institutions in order that they are more effective, transparent and responsible. They can open an inquiry on their own initiative or following a complaint, if an EU institution or body does not respect:

Complaints may concern:

All citizens have the right to vote and to stand as candidates in municipal elections and European Parliament elections in their EU country of residence. If they are in a third country, in which the home State is not represented, they have the right to benefit from the diplomatic and consular protection of any other EU Member State.

Within the rights and duties of European citizens, it is included the consular protection, which comes into force when a European citizen is outside the European Union and needs help. If there are no home state embassies or consulates in the country where the EU citizen is located at that moment, this protection can be gained through the embassy or consulate of any other EU country. Consular protection is required in case of death, arrest, detention or violent crime, but also for less serious cases such as injury, illness or repatriation.


Duties express, perhaps more than rights, the political bond between citizens and foster the sense of belonging to the society.

The list EU citizens duties is shorter than the rights and is based on shared principles and values. For example, the Italian constitutional text expressly and exclusively defines duties as: the defence of the homeland (art. 52), whose fulfillment is not limited to military means, but includes the contribution to public expenses (art. 53); loyalty to the Republic and, for the public functionaries, the duty to fulfil their assignments with discipline and honour (art. 54, par. 1 and 2).

Furthermore, the Italian Constitution envisages some situations both as rights and duties. This is the case for work; alimony and education of children; health; social security; Education; active electorate.

The same applies to the European context. In fact, having rights thanks to the belonging to a community, it also includes having duties towards it. Without the fulfillment of duties there is the disintegration of society. Solidarity is a duty that is part of the responsibility towards the community of belonging. In fact, the Italian Constitution places solidarity as a set of duties, with reference to politics, the economy, social relations.


Hereinafter what the Lisbon Treaty states in article 8 regarding participatory democracy within the European Community, concerning the promotion and the obligatory nature of the “civil dialogue” deriving from the consultation of the parties:

To read more about this topic, look at our JOurnal.

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