Introducing the concept of citizenship

Building citizen skills and activation strategies
About Lesson

Introducing the concept of citizenship

Citizenship is a multifaceted concept that defines an individual’s legal and societal membership in a particular country or nation, entailing certain rights, responsibilities, and privileges. It encompasses civil, political, and social dimensions, and has significant implications for an individual’s status and participation in a society.

The concept of citizenship has been the subject of extensive scholarly research and has evolved over time, shaped by legal, historical, social, and political factors. Scholars have examined the concept of citizenship from various perspectives, including legal, philosophical, sociological, and political. For example, Marshall (1950)6 argued that citizenship consists of civil, political, and social rights, and that the expansion of citizenship rights has been a significant aspect of modern social progress. Arendt (1951)7 explored the relationship between citizenship and freedom, highlighting the importance of political participation in defining the status of citizenship. Additionally, Bauböck (1994)8 examined the notion of multiple citizenships in the context of globalization and transnationalism, challenging traditional understandings of citizenship as tied to a single nation-state.

Treaty of Maastricht
The 1992 Treaty of Maastricht on display in Rome in 1997.
Image from Wikimedia Commons

Legal documents and government websites also provide insights into the concept of citizenship. Regarding the idea of a European citizenship the Treaty of Maastricht, signed in 1992, was the first EU legal document to introduce this concept and made it an integral part of the EU legal framework. The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), signed in 1957, establishes the right to European citizenship within the European Union. Also, worth mention that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) asserts that everyone has the right to a nationality and that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of their nationality.


Time for reflection

We invite you to reflect and think about the concept of citizenship, a sense of community, solidarity, and respect.



We would like to provide a practical example of the movie The Terminal, starring Tom Hanks loosely based on a true story. It tells the story of a man who travels to New York in order to fulfill his dead father’s final wish. As he arrives in New York, his country goes into war which makes him a citizen of no country with no formal passport. Because of the missing formal citizenship documents, he cannot enter the United States of America. Other than this man’s story, it showcases how having basic skills, such as language knowledge, as well as citizen skills like acceptance, civic values, social justice, and a willingness to help one another can make a difference in somebody else’s life even if they don’t necessarily share upfront the same values or background.

Reflect on formal aspects of citizenship and on civic values.

  • Explore the importance of fostering a sense of community, solidarity, and respect for other members of society.
  • Should governments and citizens alike give greater importance to promoting tolerance towards diverse cultures and ethnicities?
  • Analyze how basic skills, such as language knowledge, and citizen skills like acceptance, civic values, social justice, and a willingness to help others can make a difference in somebody else’s life, even when they may not share the same values or background upfront.

Provide real-life instances to support your stance. You can use the “Comment”-section of this chapter to exchange with others on this subject.

Introducing the concept of citizenship
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