Barriers Towards EU Citizenship

The European Court of Justice expects European citizenship to become the fundamental status of nationals of the Member States and considers this goal to ‘lie at the heart of the European integration process’. EU treaties, legislation and case law have given Europeans an increasing number of rights. Yet the European Commission complains that these remain underused. And so Framework Program VII (FP7) of the European Commission has included a call for a large-scale IP, in order to identify and analyze the ‘barriers’ to exercising the rights conferred by European citizenship.

A Consortium of Universities and Research Centers, led by Utrecht University, and including the University of Trento, has initiated a response to this call.

Logo Beucitizen

This project has identified some research questions and several categories of potential hindrances to the exercise of such rights: contradictions between different rights, ‘multilevel’ rights, and differences in the priority given by Member States to these rights; differences between political, administrative, and legal institutions; financial restraints; lack of sufficient solidarity; administrative and bureaucratic hurdles; language problems; and other practical barriers to claiming and exercising rights – and related duties.

We also distinguish between different types of citizenship rights - economic, social, political, and civil - and between the subjects of these rights, based on certain ascribed characteristics: male and female, young and old, native and immigrant.

We believe that multidisciplinarity will help to identify and analyze the barriers to the exercise of European citizenship. We can learn from other times and places; the analysis includes a historical and comparative dimension. And we aim to combine insights from the historical, legal, and social sciences. Our overall aim is to investigate the options for a multilayered citizenship true to the EU's motto 'In Varietate Concordia'.

The research questions and theoretically identified barriers will be investigated in 12 different work packages, each containing specific research objectives, tasks, participant roles, and deliverables.

The University of Trento is directly in charge of WP5 – Economic Rights,  and of the analysis of the linguistic barriers which prevent EU citizens from fully exercising their rights.  The research group is also in volved in other work packages and activities within the bEUcitizen project.

WP5 Economic Rights.

This WP5’s objective is to study, from the perspective of EU citizenship, both the problems that EU citizens and third-country nationals face in gaining access to the economic rights which are at the core of the European Union, and the question of how they can exercise these rights. Against this background we will identify different categories of citizens’ specific substantive economic rights and the barriers that they face, i.e. (a) citizens’ rights to manage and protect their intellectual property, and barriers to those rights, (b) citizens’ rights to provide and receive services, and barriers to those rights (c) citizens’ rights to practice  their profession, and barriers to those rights, and (d) the rights of citizens, in their capacity as consumers, to free choice and to be informed and protected when purchasing goods and services in the internal market, and barriers to those rights.

Linguistic Barriers

The linguistic diversity that is symbolic of the cultural richness of Europe, is also, unfortunately, expressed in the area’s practical problems, and in the difficulties that citizens may face when they try to exercise their European rights in  Member States other than their own. An obvious example is language differences as a barrier in the exchange of information. Such hindrances emerge especially in cross‐border interactions involving tourism, trade, work, marriage, living, buying real estate, taxation, pensions, healthcare and the recognition of professional or student diplomas. EU citizens travelling, working or living in other member states experience difficulty getting precise information about the rights and opportunities they have as consumers, workers, victims of crime, investors or tax payers; the administrative and legal procedures to follow; the documents to fill out, etc. in order to claim their rights in a different linguistic environment.

Moreover, language  barriers may make access to rights difficult. Documents, including rules and regulations specifying rights, duties and responsibilities, are phrased in different common and legal languages and may acquire (slightly) different meanings in these different linguistic contexts; moreover the translation process always risks modifying meaning.

The aim of the research on linguistic barriers is to identify and classify the different kinds of barriers raised by language diversity and their impact on the exercise of EU rights. The group will focus particularly on a cross-task analysis of the specific practical linguistic barriers that economically active EU citizens and third-country nationals face in exercising their rights to free movement.

Research will use a variety of methods, including a systematic legal analysis of the Treaties; secondary legislation, including the General Citizens’ Rights Directive (2004/38); case law and its implementation in the Member States and how this affects EU nationals and third-country nationals; cross-national case studies covering the different categories of economic rights and a cross-task analysis of the factors that influence linguistic barriers, making the exercise of economic rights more difficult and costly (See also the project "Law and Language" related to this issue).

Further information on “BEUCITIZEN – Barriers Towards EU Citizenship” is available at the main project portal:

Trento Unit Research Group

  • Prof. Elena Ioriatti, Phd (elena.ioriatti [at]
    National coordinator, member of the Executive board of bEUcitizen project, coordinator of WP5 together with Prof. Sybe de Vries (General coordinator of the project).
  • Prof. Paolo Guarda, Phd (paolo.guarda [at]
    Member of the research group, Post-doc researcher, directly in charge of Deliverable 5.4 “Research paper on Case Study (iii): ‘Barriers that citizens face regarding their intellectual property rights’” and involved in the activity of WP2 “Conceptual and theoretical synthesis”.
  • Dr. Flavio Guella, Phd (flavio.guella [at]
  • Dr. Elisabetta Pulice, PhD (elisabetta.pulice [at]


For specific news and information related to the activity of University of Trento Unit, click here.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement No. 320294