A Duty‐Free Europe? What's Wrong with Kochenov's Account of EU Citizenship Rights

Date01 July 2015
Published date01 July 2015
A Duty-Free Europe? What’s Wrong
with Kochenov’s Account of EU
Citizenship Rights
Richard Bellamy*
Abstract: This article disputes the recent argument of Dimitry Kochenov advocating an
‘EU Citizenship without Duties’. His thesis rests on an untenable form of philosophical
anarchism that overlooks the role played by our political obligations to state structures in
securing rights. At best, his argument suggests a ‘thin’ form of EU citizenship that allows
European citizens to choose which of the Member States they wish to become morally
obliged to. A ‘thicker’ form of EU level citizenship could only arise by creating civic
obligations at the EU level, the position he rejects. To the extent certain Court of Justice
judgments in this area reflect parallel reasoning to Kochenov’s, they too suffer from a
similar failure to appreciate the role of civic duties to particular Member States (or,
eventually, the EU) in creating and securing the status of citizens as equal rights bearers.
I Introduction and Structure: Kochenov’s Provocation
Many commentators have seen the absence of civic duties relating to the rights of EU
citizenship as a central flaw.1In a recent article,2Dimitry Kochenov disputes this view
and defends ‘an EU citizenship without duties’. He begins by questioning whether
citizenship rights necessarily entail correlative civic duties directly related to those
rights on the part of the rights-bearer. Section II of his article claims that entailment
has increasingly become the exception rather than the rule within most democratic
states.3To cite his examples, only a few countries regard the right to vote as entailing
a duty to vote, or the right to security as involving a duty of national service, not just
in time of war but also in peacetime.4In this respect, he contends EU citizenship
merely follows a more general trend. However, he extends this empirical observation
to make a much broader argument of a normative nature. He adopts a philosophical
anarchist position that denies any non-voluntary political obligation to obey the law,
* Director of the Max Weber Programme, European University Institute, Florence; and Professor of
Political Science, University College, London (UCL). I am grateful to Rainer Bauböck, Niamh Nic
Shuibhne and the Editor for their very helpful comments on an earlier version.
1eg J.H.H. Weiler, ‘Europa: “Nous coalisons des Etats, nous n’unissons pas des hommes”’, in M.
Cartabia and A. Simoncini (eds), La sostenibilità della democrazia nel XXI secolo (Il Mulino, 2009), at 51,
59 et seq; R. Davis, ‘Citizenship of the Union . . . Rights for All?’ (2002) 27 European Law Review 121;
J. Shaw, ‘Citizenship of the Union: Towards Post-National Membership?’ (1998) 6 Collected Courses of
the Academy of European Law 343–344.
2D. Kochenov, ‘EU Citizenship without Duties’, (2014) 20 European Law Journal 482.
3Ibid, 485–491.
4Ibid, 483.
European Law Journal, Vol. 21, No. 4, July 2015, pp. 558–565.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK
and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA

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