What does it mean to be a citizen?

Building citizen skills and activation strategies
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What does it mean to be a citizen?

To what extent are people in Europe familiar and comfortable with concept of citizenship? Given that attitudes and awareness can differ greatly between nations and populations, it is challenging to generalize about how familiar and at ease Europeans are with the idea of citizenship. Nevertheless, studies have revealed that people living in European nations tend to have a relatively high level of familiarity with the idea of citizenship and its related rights and obligations. For example, in the European Commission’s standard Eurobarometer 88 (2017) it is stated that “Seven in ten Europeans feel that they are citizens of the EU and it is the first time since spring 2010 that this indicator has reached the 70% threshold” (p.34).5

Source: European Commission (2017). Standard Eurobarometer 88: Public opinion in the European Union.

Despite this data, how many times a day, a week or even during a month do citizens reflect and think about the role they play amongst something larger than oneself, the community and nation they belong and contribute to? In most cases and daily uses, the notion of citizenship it is mostly referred as merely the legal perspective of modern citizenship can be divided into two main categories: birthright (or jus soli) citizenship and acquired (or naturalised) citizenship. The last one can be obtained through marriage to a citizen or a naturalization process that involves fulfilling certain legal requirements, such as residency, language proficiency, and passing citizenship exams. This legal sense also marks the starting point for the traditional and political citizenship that assures the right to vote, the right to work and live in the country, access to social services, and protection under the law.

Citizenship as sense of belonging

From a social perspective, however citizenship implies a sense of belonging and attachment to a particular community or nation. It can encompass cultural, social, and emotional aspects that shape an individual’s identity and connection to a larger collective. This can include sharing common values, traditions, language, and participating in the cultural life of the community.


Citizenship as way of participation

Citizenship must also entail a sense of duty to engage in the democratic process and make use of one’s own right to voice opinions, participate in political activities, and influence decision-making. This can include the right to vote in elections, take part in civic activities and in civil society organizations, as well as advocate for issues of public concern. Active participation in the political process is often seen as a fundamental aspect of citizenship, as it allows citizens to have a voice in shaping the policies and decisions that affect their lives.

It is important to note that the meaning of citizenship can vary across different countries and societies, and can be shaped by historical, cultural, and political contexts. The concept of citizenship continues to evolve and be debated, with ongoing discussions about inclusion, equality, and the responsibilities and rights of citizens in modern societies.

What does it mean to be a citizen?
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