What does it mean to me (a scholar, activist, current EU citizen, UK citizen) to be an EU citizen?
I cannot answer this question without thinking about my field research, primarily in Moldova. EU citizenship, for me, is about the status it gave Moldovans, to become Romanians by gaining Romanian citizenship, and thus to become EU citizens. I’ve written elsewhere how this was not an easy, but financially costly, process; Romania does not “give out” EU passports (as right wing media claim).
Rather, gaining Romanian (and thus EU) citizenship is a significant process. It often involves going to the archives to retrieve documents of relatives (particularly those deported by the Soviet regime to Siberia). It involves paying for documents to be transcribed and translated, queuing in line in the embassy and waiting for 1-2 years.
But, after that time has passed, the status of becoming EU citizenship is gaining something far beyond that which Moldovan citizenship can provide: travel and work rights in 28 member-states. You get to stand a different line in the airport. You don’t have to spend time and money applying for visas. You don’t have to have ludicrous sums of money in your bank account. You no longer have to answer invasive questions about your purpose, profession, intentions.
Quite simply, EU citizenship is about belonging to the EU, and the rights and benefits that you acquire. Why would we give this up?
I cannot imagine life not being an EU citizen. Through luck, and the contingency of my life, I have never had to queue at an EU border not belonging to the EU.
Yet, it has only been through studying and researching EU citizenship, that it has come to mean so much via my research participants. The idea of giving something up that others fight so much to achieve is painful.
So I’m not just voting to remain in the EU (on 23 June). I’m voting to remain an EU citizen.
And, lastly, I’m voting for my friends and colleagues who, as EU but not UK citizens, cannot vote.