Chapter 1: Introduction: being a citizen in Europe
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People living in Europe belong to different concentric or overlapping territorially defined communities: neighbourhoods, cities, nation-states and the European Union, and not to forget the world population. They can also belong to various other groups or categories: (extended) families, friends, colleagues, genders, age groups, ethnic groups, the employed or the unemployed, students or pensioners, the healthy, the sick or the disabled, as well as language or religious communities. These communities and categories define multiple identities, which engender rights, duties and responsibilities. Over time some of these have come to be defined in law. Membership of territorially defined communities is referred to as citizenship. This term – as well as related ones in other European languages (citoyennete, burgerschap, Burgerschaft, ciudadania, cittadinanza, cidadania, cetatenie, medborgarskap) – stems from the term ‘city’, ‘burg’, ‘fortress’, that is, a walled and protected territory. Inhabitants of this walled territory had freedom (‘Stadtluft macht frei’), which furthered independence and individualism. However, not everybody within the city walls was a ‘citizen’. Alongside the territorial definition, citizenship has always had a social construction of membership, which included and excluded some groups. For example, the beggar within the city walls was not part of the citizens. For those who were included, the right to freedom and independence was always combined with duties and responsibilities. Walls provided protection, but had to be built, maintained and defended. Duties such as serving in civic militias, guarding walls and dykes, providing labour and paying taxes were required in order to guarantee the continued protection of these rights. Such rights and duties stabilised mutual expectations between people and developed into customs. Eventually they became enacted into law, in order to increase transparency and predictability and ensure equality.

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