Citizenship starts much closer to home: in our houses, neighbourhoods and schools
The Presidency of the EU is held for six months by each member state on a rotational basis. The Netherlands has held the Presidency in the second half of 2004. Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science Maria van der Hoeven talked about European citizenship at the ELOS conference, and stressed that the path to living together in Europe starts at school.
Read the entire speech given by Minister van der Hoeven.
Opening speech by Minister Van der Hoeven at the ELOS conference 'Schools for European Citizenship' held on November 18th in the Pieterskerk in Leiden, The Netherlands
It was once a proud saying, all the way from Britain to Egypt: 'Cives Romanus Sum': 'I am a Roman Citizen'. It meant you had certain rights that would help guarantee your personal freedom, especially before a court of law.
For a long time, citizenship was a privilege, and a much sought after one at that. It was not linked to any ethnical background: Gauls and Egyptians, Britains and Greeks, Roman citizenship was open to everyone. As I mentioned, it was a privilege they sought after, as it afforded them an important right: they became Romans. At the same time, though, they remained Greeks, Gauls, Egyptians, and so on.
The Roman citizen's civil liberties were by no means perfect, though. The administration was often arbitrary and could ignore or take away freedoms. It is also important to point out that the Romans' citizenship should be viewed more in a legal sense than a social one. Nevertheless, the theory appeals to me. You could choose to become part of a greater whole - transcending your region and your people - which offered advantages that could only be achieved on that super-regional level, such as a transparent justice system across the empire. This added something to your identity, while no one demanded that you stopped being a Greek or Gaul.
This leads us to the following conclusions:
You can be a citizen on multiple levels: in your region, your country, or a multinational entity;
Citizenship used to be a privilege that wasn't simply handed out;
Citizenship is centred around rights and identity;
These are the issues I would like to explore with you here today. Let's try and find out what a European dimension, European citizenship, means to us today.