I have recently been made aware of this petition to make EU citizenship permanent (prompted by Brexit):

Noting the ECJ’s view of Union citizenship as a ‘fundamental status’ of nationals of Member States, and that Brexit will strip millions of EU citizens of this status and their vote in European elections, requests the Commission propose means to avoid risk of collective loss of EU citizenship and rights, and assure all EU citizens that, once attained, such status is permanent and their rights acquired.

I've not come across the European Citizen's Initiative process before, although it looks superficially similar to the UK petitions process.

However, a quick look at this overview suggests that it would be literally impossible for this to affect the EU citizenship status of UK citizens, since the process won't finish until after Brexit has occurred, so I'm wondering if I'm missing something. (Presumably this also means that UK votes would cease to count for this process on the date of departure, but that's not what I'm asking about.)

Is there any way this petition could change the EU citizenship status of UK citizens?

To clarify I'm aware there are potentially other issues like "where would the financial contributions come from for these members" and I'm aware that the petition would have to reach the required number of signatures - I'm not asking about those, I'm asking whether there is any way a petition to make EU citizenship permanent that won't even be considered until after Brexit could affect the EU citizenship status of UK citizens.

(This question describes another attempt to achieve a similar end, but via a different process.)

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    For a precedent how such a thing could work, look at the way German citizenship worked during the Cold War. The FRG proclaimed that GDR citizens were Germans and thus FRG citizens and would give them a passport if they made it into the West, but it didn't actively help them cross the Iron Curtain (until the final weeks).
    – o.m.
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 11:28
  • I am not sure why people closed the question as primarily opinion-based. But maybe they interpreted it as asking about how likely it is that the initiative reaches the required number of signatures (which would be completely speculative) and not as asking for whether this is actually legally possible. Maybe you should clarify this question more.
    – Philipp
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 12:36
  • Thanks Philipp - I've attempted to clarify this now. Is that any better?
    – arboviral
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 13:19
  • 4
    I reopened the question because none of the people who put this question on hold provided a concrete reason and the author fixed the problem I assumed lead to putting the question on hold.
    – Philipp
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 13:24
  • Well this is interesting - Guy Verhofstadt is asking people to sign it now! twitter.com/guyverhofstadt/status/1032555732351311872
    – arboviral
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 15:15

1 Answer 1


The current EU citizenship is supplementary to national citizenship from an EU member. This is written in the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and was first agreed on the Maastricht Treaty (1992).


Anyone who is a national of an EU country is automatically an EU citizen. The principle is enshrined in the EU's treaties and is a key factor in developing a European identity. EU citizenship does not replace national citizenship. It is additional to it and gives people specific rights.

The EU, being a difficult to define mixture of federation, confederation, and international organization, does not have the central power to, alone, define the major status for EU citizenship. This would almost certainly require a new treaty and/or consensus from all members. Even Charles Goerens that proposed an ammendment (882) to the EU regarding non-EU memmber citizens EU citizenship (so similar to the notion advanced by this citizen initiative), admitted the difficulty of implementation to EURACTIV:

The proposal would need all 27 governments and parliaments of the the EU to agree to treaty change. Do you see any chance of that happening?

I know that unanimity is a tough ask. But the idea should at least be discussed. The proposal is out there and you see the response it has gathered: it is substantial. Never in my political life have I seen people so enthusiastic about something or received so many emails of support; it verges on madness. We have for the first time stumbled upon an enthusiastic commitment to European achievements. What we are seeing in the British Isles as a result of this proposal has not been seen in the other member states. I think it would be foolhardy to not act on it.

Given this assumption it is extremely unlikely that this citizen initiative (which curiously is a new EU citizens right introduced in the Treaty of Lisbon) will ever come to fruition. The reasons are that there are many member states that would outright vote against (ergo veto) this proposal. In fact I would argue that any member state dealing with significant separatist movements (UK, Spain, Belgium, Germany, etc.) would likely veto this.

The process through which a citizen looses its citizenship is named denaturalization:

Denaturalization is the reverse of naturalization, when a state deprives one of its citizens of his or her citizenship. From the point of view of the individual, denaturalization means revocation or loss of citizenship. Denaturalization can be based on various legal justifications.

In some countries this is possible even for citizens born in it (UK and Canada for example). However notice that this is considered extreme and there are several international agreements that preclude the loss of citizenship with the acquisition of another. This is so as to avoid the condition of stateless.

Given the dual nature of EU citizenship (supplementary only to a member nationality) this principle is being followed in the process of denaturalization. For this reason I don't think there is a legal basis to support this initiative even if submitted to the European courts of justice.

Notice that I'm not saying that is not possible and I must admit I find the notion appealing. Nevertheless I think it would be unrealistic to expect this to happen in any foreseeable future.

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    Germany has no significant separatist movement. There is a vicious political struggle about the national identity, but it is about the course of the entire nation.
    – o.m.
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 16:01
  • 1
    @o.m. He might be referring to the separatist movement in Bavaria. Although they do not appear to be very active lately.
    – Philipp
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 16:08
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    @Philipp, due to the political constellation with the CDU/CSU, Bavarians wield outsized political influence in Berlin. Most nationalist Bavarians seem keen to keep it that way, not bug out.
    – o.m.
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 16:12
  • @o.m. It is indeed the separatist movement in Bavaria I was thinking about (as Phillip said). Particularly given last year decisions in a German court. This article event mentions a poll giving 23% of people that felt they might support independence (which I feel is quite high although I'm not sure how good the poll was). Nevertheless I'm not well familiarized with the movement. It's true that I might be misinterpreting it.
    – armatita
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 16:14
  • 1
    Also, the Goerens proposal is via a separate process so I don't want to merge them, but the question about it that I linked above (also by me) is still waiting for an answer, which it sounds like you might be able to give...
    – arboviral
    Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 7:57

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