Patriots in the Making? Migrants, Citizens, and Demos Building in the European Union

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Abstract

Almost 20 years ago, Jürgen Habermas launched the idea of constitutional patriotism as a proposed solution to the tension between citizenship and national identity in the European Union. Since then, constitutional patriotism has remained a key concept in debates on European Union (EU) citizenship and democracy. This article, as so many before it, scrutinizes the meaning and viability of the concept. Unlike most others, however, it focuses less on the content of the concept and more on the subjects to which it is assumed/supposed to apply. I argue, firstly, that constitutional patriotism is not a viable or even desirable ideal for the European demos in its totality. The potential patriots of the EU are not the large majority of European Union citizens who live in their home country but migrants from other member states and nonmember states who are foreigners in their host countries. Secondly and accordingly, I argue that advancing constitutional patriotism means improving the status of foreign nationals in general and third-country nationals in particular. Connecting the acquisition of EU citizenship to domicile as opposed to member state nationality is one venue for such improvement. I discuss what this could imply and defend it as a means of building a truly European demos.