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European Citizenship, transnational ties and political incorporation. A comparative case-study of the Romanian and British residents in Spain

Irina Ciornei
Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals – IBEI
Irina Ciornei
Institut Barcelona d'Estudis Internacionals – IBEI
Open Panel

Abstract

The central focus of this paper refers to how overlapping citizenship regimes influence the practices of political incorporation at the local level. The Britons and Romanians in Spain can vote in local elections in their localities of residence, in the national elections of their country of origin (COR) and for the EU parliament. This complex citizenship status confers a multi-layered opportunity structure that the migrants and their leaders may use in order to get policy changes at the local level. Especially in the case of the Romanians, the COR institutions and politicians are a visible presence in some localities with important Romanian electorate. This fact determines not only intense contacts with the migrant community, but with Spanish administrations and political parties as well. In the case of the Britons, we find that several institutions of the EU have been called upon in order to halt the urbanistic laws on the Valencian coast. At the same time, several MPs from the UK have been contacted by British residents when the local politics was non-responsive to their interests. Taking this into account, the main argument of the paper is that the practices of local incorporation cannot be analyzed only from the perspective of the residence context. Thus, in the case of the EU citizens residents in another Member state, it is important to see how and when the supranational and COR dimensions of their membership are activated. The methodology is based on qualitative interviews led in several small and middle size Spanish localities where the groups represent more than 10% of the population. The comparison is intersting for several reasons. First, there are discrepancies in terms of how the Romanians and the Britons are represented in local politics, as no Romanian has been elected in the 2007 local elections, while the Britons are the foreign residents with the highest number of local councillors. Secondly, the Romanias abroad have their own representatives in the COR parliament, while the Britons vote for the candidates in the last constituency they resided. They also lose their right to vote after 15 years of living abroad. Thirdly, the Britons are better positioned in the host society in terms of education and socio-economic status. They are also older members of the EU, fact which gives them more assets to use the supranational membership resources.