The Karta Polaka: Debordering and rebordering the limits of citizenship in the EU’s eastern neighbourhood

Bastian Sendhardt

Monday, March 7th 2016
14:00-16:00 Panel 2: The Politics of Diaspora Citizenship


After Poland’s Schengen accession, members of the Polish minority in countries such as Ukraine, as third-country citizens, needed a visa when travelling to Poland. In order to mitigate these negative effects of EU membership, Poland passed the Act on the Karta Polaka (Pole’s Card). This document addresses the Polish diaspora in the USSR successor states. The card confirms the holder’s belonging to the Polish nation and grants partial access to the Polish welfare state.
This paper theoretically underpins and analyzes this Act and the changing borders of (Polish) citizenship in the context of EU enlargement, in other words: the citizenship aspect of the Europeanization of the Polish-Ukrainian border. In case of the Karta Polaka, non-resident non-citizens have access to the Polish welfare state. I understand citizenship as a status granting access to the welfare state which on a territorial basis offers inclusion into other functional systems. This understanding of citizenship makes sense only when seen against the background of the primacy of functional differentiation in world society. However, this observation also points to the endurance of territorial patterns in world society. When understanding territorial borders in a more abstract way, that is, not as physical border installations but as cognitive lines creating abstract categories we see the connection between categories such as state territory, citizenship or the nation as a form of collective identity. All of these are categories with clear-cut borders and thus—at least in theory—with an exact ‘inside/outside distinction’. Of course, in today’s globalizing world society, there are countless derogations from these ideal-type fixed categories, such as dual citizenship, rights of residence or, as will be shown here, the Karta Polaka, but also affirmations of them. These phenomena can be analyzed as derogations from (debordering) and affirmations of the principle of territoriality (rebordering).

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