Is there (still) an East-West divide in the conception of citizenship in Europe? - Shushanik Makaryan: Towards a Global Theory of Citizenship
- Is there (still) an East-West divide in the conception of citizenship in Europe?
- Mária M. Kovács: Ethnic preferentialism in European Union states: East and West
- Shushanik Makaryan: Towards a Global Theory of Citizenship
- Constantin Iordachi: How (not) to think about historical regions?
- Costica Dumbrava: Five comments on citizenship policies in CEE countries
- Raymond Taras: Is Citizenship a Solution or a Lightning Rod? Comparing the Backlash in the “Two” Europes
- André Liebich: Is there (still) an East-West divide in the conception of citizenship in Europe? A rejoinder
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In his argument Liebich outlines several historical and contemporary reasons that have resulted in, what he describes as, “West” vs. “East” conceptions of citizenship. Specifically, in this forum and also elsewhere (1998, 2009) Liebich attributes these differences in modes of citizenship to the periphery status of the “new” EU states, historical isolation (i.e. later transition to capitalism and industrial revolution, the Iron Curtain, shorter period of independent statehood, no overseas expansion). Liebich notes that being a weak state and having that insecurity drives this division between the “West” and “East” concepts in the modes of citizenship.
I think the dynamics that Lieblich identifies in this forum and also elsewhere can be found among East European states. But I still think caution is needed in several respects when making such “clear-cut” distinctions. And hence, I would disagree with Liebich’s distinction about “East” vs. “West” models of citizenship—one reason being that these states are still “states in transition” and not only conceptions of statehood and nationhood are being developed there, but also conceptions of citizenship are still being defined and institutionalized. My research and expertise are in post-Soviet 15 republics. And I find that the tension of citizenship dynamics and nation-building for national minorities vs. ethnic titular group are in a dialectic relationship. As the titular groups have tried to reinforce their identity and statehood, the national minorities too have tried to reinforce their culture.
So a practical question arises from Liebich’s thesis. What do these distinctions (“East” vs “West”) then mean for ethnic minorities and immigrants in these states, and what do they mean for the titular groups of the state? In other words, what is it that changes or is different for ethnic minorities in the “old” EU states vs. “new” EU states?
(1) While the “West” vs. “East” hypothesis may be supported in regard to dual citizenship or citizenship at birth, in other aspects it is not. In regard to naturalization, in “old” European states Germany has a very demanding process of naturalization of immigrants. Austria’s recent amendment in 2006 has resulted in sharp decrease of naturalization rates. Why then Denmark wants foreigners to pass language and Denmark history and culture test before they are allowed to move to Denmark to re-unite with their families? (Copenhagen Post, December 13, 2005). Or why in Emmen, Switzerland (not an EU state), the naturalisation of 56 migrants could be decided by plebiscite (Time, May 22, 2000)? When it comes to naturalization, practices in the “old” and “Western” EU states do not always seem to be so “inclusionary”.
(2) Liebich puts a lot of emphasis on the public opinion—to predict that this divide will become even sharper. Is this transition similar to the transition that the “West” underwent decades/years ago in the wake of globalization? Perhaps, the “East” is just involved in a delayed process that has also occurred in the “West?” Moreover, there is some counter evidence against the leverage that Liebich attributes to the public opinion. Given the incentive to join the EU, in Latvia and Estonia the initially “homogenous” visions of nation-state building have been completely reformulated and practically rephrased. The discourse of restoring the “lost” nationhood and saving the “disappearing nation” (Kionka 1991) has been replaced with a new wording—for example, the Latvian national integration program states that “Latvia has never been an ethnically homogenous nation” (stated in the National program “Integration of Society in Latvia, Naturalization Board of the Republic of Latvia 2001: 5). Similar steps were taken in Estonia too to change the public opinion about integration, national minorities. Moreover, given their fragile position in the world system, as new states, these countries are subject to an enormous pressure to conform to the world culture of human rights. So how much more “exclusionist” can they get?
Causally, I think, it may be even harder to establish whether the “Eastern” model of citizenship is a new conception, or whether it is borrowed from old Western states. Upon the collapse of the USSR, Latvia and Estonia justified their “exclusive” practices on naturalization by citing more exclusive practices that other West-European states had in place, such as Switzerland.
(3) Are these distinctions generalizable from Europe to the larger world, i.e. can we describe and generalize the “West” as industrial, core, more developed countries, and the “East” as peripheral/semipheripheral countries, and would then find the same pattern identified by Liebich on a global scale? I think if we move even further east, to the former Soviet republics, such as those in the Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, etc), all dimensions change. These states too are “historically isolated” (they became independent states only in 1991, had no overseas expansion, were economically less developed and had a delayed transition to capitalism). And there is a trend there to make naturalization more demanding for immigrants. Still, their conceptions of the “ethnic nation” are quite different from, say, the Danish or Greek ones. I doubt one could even define what the “ethnic nation” means for these states (since while it is being elaborated, it is undefined yet since it has been only a few years that they have put it into their nation-state discourse). These titular nations had very weak conceptions of ethnicity (if any) before the Soviet era. After the collapse of the USSR, the titular nations here are inventing their ethnic identities, often searching roots in “Islam” (a supra-national identity). For example, in Kazakhstan or Tajikistan, the only requirement for naturalization is residence in the country (max 5 years, and is waived for many categories of people). In Tajikistan that requirement is waived if one adopts a child who is a Tajik citizen. While language or history of the nation are “ethnic” markers of the titular group, the residency requirement is not an “ethnic” marker.
So to sum up, I think while the trends identified by Liebich are evident, due to the dynamic nature of nation-state building in these “countries in transition,” these distinctions are quite fragile, and may vary as we expand the geographic scope of comparison. So in that sense, are we considering a regional theory of citizenship or there are some other exogenous variables that can also explain the divide between Western vs. Eastern models of citizenship globally?
Note on author:
Shushanik Makaryan is a Jean Monnet post-doctoral fellow at the Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies at European University Institute in Florence, Italy. She has a Ph.D. in Sociology from Washington State University, USA and an M.A. in International Relations and European Studies from the Central European University, Hungary.
- Copenhagen Post, December 13, 2005 reported at http://www.legislationline.org
- Liebich, Andre. (1998). “Ethnic Minorities and Long-Term Implications of EU Enlargement” in European University Institute Working Papers, RSC No. 98/49
- Liebich, Andre. (2009). “Introduction: Altneulander or the Vicissitudes of Citizenship in the New EU States” in R. Baubock R., B. Perchinig and W. Sievers (eds.) Citizenship Policies in the New Europe. IMISCOE Research: Amsterdam
- Kionka, Riina. 1991. “Who Should Become a Citizen of Estonia?” RL 350/91, September 27, 1991.
- Time. 2000.“How to Get Elected a Citizen” by C. Trillin in Time, May 22, 2000, vol.