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Strategies of Secession and Counter-Secession

'Better (Not) to Get Involved?' East European Citizens' Perceptions of EU Citizenship in the Midst of Brexit

European Union
Political Activism
Nora Siklodi
Norwegian University of Science & Technology, Trondheim
Nora Siklodi
Norwegian University of Science & Technology, Trondheim

The introduction of European Union (EU) citizenship in 1992 led to a new research agenda among citizenship scholars; to draw parallels between this first, potentially, cosmopolitan model of citizenship, and the more traditional and more established national models. If anything, most of the resulting studies have shown that national models continue to shape the everyday lives of citizens, making EU citizenship a second-order status. Recent developments linked to the economic, migration and integration crises of the EU has installed new challenges for an already much-criticised EU citizenship. This has been the case especially if considered from an 'active' EU citizenship viewpoint: i.e. when the focus is on the ideals, attitudes and practices of EU free movers - EU citizens practicing their rights to move, reside, work and study freely in any of the EU's member states. While citizenship studies literature may suggest that active citizenship and active citizens take centre stage at turbulent political times, the same could hardly be said about EU free movers' responses to the above developments. If anything, most recent studies have, generally, concluded that a sense of ambivalence and political apathy have prevailed among EU free movers. The question is then whether an apparently existential crisis could spearhead more traditional forms of political activism among members of this group. The Brexit process - the United Kingdom's (UK) withdrawal from the EU - offers a fitting context for attempts to interrogate this question further.
National identity claims and negative stereotypes of particularly, East European immigrants have framed public, media and elite debates around this process, making the realisation of EU citizenship ever more challenging for EU citizens who belong to the aforementioned group. Against this backdrop, the paper draws on original semi-structured interviews with Eastern European residents, workers and students to shed light on how they perceive their EU citizenship - including identity, rights and political participation - in the UK today.
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