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100,000 sign campaign for permanent European citizenship
With Brexit looming, many have sprung into action to prepare for the separation of the United Kingdom from the European Union. One campaign is fighting for the EU to introduce the concept of permanent European citizenship.
Tony Venables, the founder of the European Citizens’ Rights, Involvement and Trust Foundation (ECIT), was in shock when he received the news after the 2016 vote which decided the UK would be leaving the EU.
“The first thought that I had was that, as a result, I would lose my European Union citizenship,” Venables said. “And I couldn’t quite understand how it was that one part of the community could remove rights from another part of the community in that way.”
Venables is originally from the UK and knew this decision would mean the loss of not only the EU citizenships of millions, but also his own. Many of those affected were not even allowed to vote on the outcome: 3.5 million EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens who have resided outside of the UK for over 15 years.
Their first initiative, Retaining European Citizenship, received 24,000 endorsements in a year. With this latest initiative, however, they have already received over 100,000 signatures from all 28 member states. To be valid for a hearing and debate at the European Parliament, the initiative must reach a million signatures and reach a minimum threshold in seven countries.
Although the group hopes to reach its goal of a million signatures so that it can be brought to the European Parliament, the campaign also serves another purpose.
“The real aim of this European Citizens' Initiative is to get this process moving,” said Tony Simpson, the campaign's leader. “Eventually it’s possible that there will have to be some revision of the treaties on European citizenship.”
The members hope the campaign will gain momentum and spur a conversation about European citizenship and potential solutions. “There has been a strong body of legal argument that it’s abnormal for 65 million people to be stripped of their citizenship status,” Simpson said. “That’s against all our civilised standards.”
The initiative has until 29 March to garner enough signatures to be brought to the European Parliament for discussion.