Exercising EU Citizenship about rights, duties and possible barriers to their realisation by European Citizens.

Twenty years after the EU introduced the concept of ‘European Citizenship’ in the Treaty of Maastricht, the European Commission proclaimed 2013 the ‘Year of European Citizenship’. This was done to draw additional attention to a perceived problem: why don’t Europeans realise their rights as European citizens? With the term ‘realise’ here being used to mean both being aware of these rights and demanding, using and thereby materialising them. This year, the European Commission also awarded a consortium of
26 institutes from 19 countries in and outside Europe, coordinated by Utrecht University.
Read the full project.

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Work package Social Rights

Frans Pennings and Martin Seeleib-Kaiser are the coordinators of Work package 6 (social rights).

The next projects are being undertaken

Task 6.1

Research paper on categorization of selected national social rights (see objectives) in selected EU Member States  in terms of those factors which impede or facilitate access by ‘foreign’ EU citizens and third country nationals  in terms which describe and explain the impact on national citizens and the views of the population and politicians on the access by foreign  EU citizens and third country nationals.

 Task 6.2

A study of how European Union instruments relevant to these rights have been implemented into national law and practice in the selected Member States and which problems citizens face in realizing the rights. 

Task 6.3

 A comparative study of how in the selected  Member States social rights are subdivided in categories (‘socially constructed’) in view of their access by national citizens and ‘foreigners’ and how these explain differences in problems with accessing rights by citizens, including EU citizens. 

Task 6.4

An analysis of the possibilities and impediments for citizens seeking to enforce their social rights 

Task 6.5

A comprehensive  analysis and theory  of legal and sociological concepts and theories, based on the results of previous tasks, that describe and explain the barriers to access social rights and to realize these rights.    


1.   Participants WP6


Estonia                                   Gabriel Taavits          

UK (LSE)                              Hartley Dean             

UK (Oxford)                          Martin Seeleib Kaiser  

                                               Elaine Chase                

Spain    (Oviedo)                    Leopoldo Alas                      

Miriam Cueto            

Germany  (Frankfurt)             Alexander Ebner            

Sweden (Gothenburg)           Sara Stendahl       

Poland (Cracow)                    Andrzej  Swiatkowski 

Marcin Wujczyk        

Denmark (Copenhagen)         Catherine Jacqueson    


Netherlands (Utrecht)             Frans Pennings             

                                               Susanne Heeger          

Utrecht University coordinates international consortium

6,5 million Euro for research into European citizenship


‘All Rights Reserved? Barriers towards EUropean CITIZENship (acronym bEUcitizen)’ is the title of a European research endeavour by a consortium of 26 universities coordinated by Utrecht University. The research involves an EU subsidy of € 6.5 million. The research will start in May 2013 for a period of four years and is directed towards obstacles that EU citizens encounter in the exercise of their rights and obligations. What are the reasons for these impediments, what are the possibilities for the European Union to further develop the notion of European citizenship in the future? The research proposal is the result of the university programme revolving around the strategic topic of ‘Institutions’ that has made it possible for lawyers , social scientists and humanities specialists to draft the applications for the progamme.

The research aims to gain an insight into the obstacles faced by European citizens when they exercise their rights and obligations, into the possible contradictions between economic, social, political and civil citizenship rights and into the conceptualization thereof at the European and national level. According to the research programme this challenge requires a multidisciplinary approach and international comparative research.

The manifold manifestations of EU citizenship
In this research citizenship is considered to be a heterogeneous, dynamic, social and historical collection of practices which finally found their repercussions in legal and institutional firmly-enshrined rights and obligations. The mutual dependency between rules and practices means that citizenship is continually in a state of flux:

  • In Europe various forms of citizenship - local, regional, national or EU - exist alongside each other. Research into the development of citizenship before the French Revolution and into the concepts of citizenship in existing (con) federal states must offer inspiration for the further development of a European form of citizenship.
  • The research takes as its point of departure the fact that citizenship, depending on the field in question - economic, social, political or civil rights and obligations, is further developing.
  • Citizens’ rights and obligations are different for various groups of citizens: women, men, the youth, the older generation, people within and outside the EU.
  • Various groups of citizens may encounter social barriers when exercising their rights and obligations.

A multidisciplinary approach
Research into the diverse citizen within the interplay of forces concerning rules and practices requires a multidisciplinary approach. The applicants who have taken the initiative represent three faculties at Utrecht University: The Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance (Dr. Sybe de Vries, Prof. Frans Pennings and Dr. Wieger Bakker); the Faculties of Social Sciences (Prof. Trudie Knijn and Prof. Frans van Waarden) and Humanities (Prof. Maarten Prak). They have formed a consortium wherein, alongside colleagues from UU, colleagues from 25 universities, both within and outside Europe, also take part. Sybe de Vries and Frans van Waarden are coordinating the programme.

The bEUcitizen research is imperceptibly linked to the university’s strategic topic of Institutions that will discern why these formal and informal regulations, and the organisations which design the economic and social intercourse between people – at the local, national and European level – have been given their specific form and how they work. The point of departure in the bEUcitizen project is that a study is made of citizenship in the mutual dependency between rules and practices, whereby citizenship is not seen as a purely legal or constitutional construction. It is exactly this approach that offers the possibility for more insight to be gained into the role of European citizenship in the further design and functioning of institutions.

A broad and multifaceted consortium
The partners of Utrecht University which are participating in the bEUcitizen consortium are prestigious universities and research institutions from within and outside Europe: University of Antwerp (Belgium), University of Zagreb (Croatia), Masaryk University (Czech Republic), University of Tartu (Estonia), University of Aalborg (Denmark), University of Copenhagen (Denmark), University of Paris 8 (France), Goethe University Frankfurt (Germany), University of Siegen (Germany), Institute of Economic and Social Research in the Hans Böckler Foundation (Germany), Democritus University of Thrace (Greece), Central European University (Hungary), University College Dublin (Ireland), Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel), University of Trento (Italy), University of Turino (Italy), Jagiellonian University (Poland), University of Oviedo (Spain), Pompeu Fabra University (Spain), Barcelona Institute of International Studies (Spain), University of Gothenburg (Sweden), University of Zurich (Switzerland), Bo─čaziçi University (Turkey), London School of Economics (UK) and University of Oxford (UK).