Enacting European Citizenship (ENACT)
Enacting European Citizenship (ENACT)

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Enacting European Citizenship (ENACT)

2.3 Claims from outside the EU’s borders – Turkey

As we have mentioned earlier, acts of European citizenship need not take place inside the EU but can also take place outside its borders. Turkey is a good example here. To illustrate how acting out takes place in the courts in this case, let us take you to Turkey and let us examine this in case via Kurdish citizens.

In the following excerpt, we are looking at how Kurdish citizens of Turkey enact themselves as European by making claims to rights via the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). While reading the text, please note down the ways in which Kurdish citizens engage with the idea of both being European and of European citizenship.

The excerpt is from B. Isyar, Keyman, F. and B. Rumelili (2008), ‘Kurdish Acts of European Citizenship’, pp. 17-22, which can be found in its entirely here [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

Kurdish Acts of European Citizenship

Activity 3

Reflect on the following points and make notes.

  1. Acts of European citizenship need not be oriented towards the attainment of European Union citizenship or membership. For one to enact oneself as European, one need not be expressing a demand to be part of the European Union. On the contrary, one can enact oneself as a European citizen even by criticising, or expressing the wish to transform the Union. We have seen various examples of this throughout the report, such as when Kurdish citizens who are not satisfied with EU policies demand a different EU; this demand constitutes their act of European citizenship.
  2. Belonging to Europe or being a European citizen has to be understood as a process of becoming. Although none of the members of the groups we mentioned are formal citizens of Europe, they all make demands as Europeans. At the moment they make these demands (irrespective of whether their demands are realised or not) they enact themselves as Europeans.
  3. This implies that the various political subjectivities whose stability, universality, and givenness we often take for granted need to be rigorously questioned from two angles. First, we need to examine what kind of power relations construct these as given, a-temporal, and hence unchanging. Second, we need to interrogate the manner in which such subjectivities are enacted. This way, we can point to the challenges, constitution, modifications, and incessant transformations these subjectivities go through as they are enacted anew.
  4. ‘In the field of citizenship studies we need to begin interrogating not the granting of rights by institutions to already existing citizens, but the demanding of rights by subjects who enact themselves as citizens. It is such work that will help us reconceptualise citizenship, and understand its historical, temporal, and contestable nature’ (Isyar, Keyman, Rumelili 2008: 32).

Let us discuss some of these issues with Vicki Squire.

Download this video clip.Video player: Interview with Vicki Squire
Skip transcript: Interview with Vicki Squire

Transcript: Interview with Vicki Squire

The idea for this interview is to demonstrate how the ideas above link to the issues of EU’s borders and territory.

The idea that EU citizenship is enacted by non-EU citizens who live outside of the EU, is fascinating but also puzzling. If non-citizens exact EU citizenship in Turkey, why at all call it European citizenship? Why don’t we call it Turkish citizenship?

This is a very interesting question, and in some senses one might call some of the claims of Kurds in Turkey in terms of Turkish citizenship. However, what is most interesting about research carried out by the scholars on the Enact project is that it shows how citizenship exceeds national boundaries. The national frame of reference does not suffice to understand people’s claims to rights, because they happen at several overlapping levels. For example, Kurds in Turkey actually work on Turkish citizenship by making appeals to European norms, and in this regard one cannot understand their claims simply in terms of the ‘relationship’ between individual and the state. This is also important when it comes to questions of European citizenship, because it shows that Europe and its institutions are more than those of the European Union. The Council of Europe, for example, enables Turkish citizens bring their claims within the framework of Human Rights and exercise what we call a ‘European citizenship’. The Council of Europe is not a European Union institution, but it still plays an important role here in the constitution of European citizenship by those who enact citizenship through claiming rights at the European level.

Let me clarify this – if Kurdish citizens or women’s NGOs in Turkey already participate in the debate on EU citizenship why is there such a controversy if Turkey should or not join the EU? Are we looking at this situation from a different perspective when we focus on acts of citizenship?

It is important to distinguish here between the European Union and Europe, and also to distinguish between institutionalised and critical enactments of European citizenship. The negotiation between Turkey and the EU regarding accession is an institutionalised process that largely occurs through state actors. However, the claiming of rights by Turkish citizens can bring to bear a more disruptive dimension to European citizenship that rejects the confinement of Europe to the Member States of European Union, while also troubling the assumption that accession will simply foster the inclusion of Turkish citizens. As the wider research across the Enact project demonstrates, even within the European Union significant contestations occur regarding the limitations of EU citizenship (the mobilizations of Roma and sex workers, for example, entail a challenge to such limitations). In this regard, an analysis focusing on acts of citizenship is not simply about the participation of actors whose status is already settled within a pre-existing political sphere. Rather it is about the very re-constitution of politics and citizenship through struggles that trouble existing maps of Europe.

End transcript: Interview with Vicki Squire
Interview with Vicki Squire
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