This double issue of The European Journal of Social Quality groups a number of contributions that approach the theme of citizenship and welfare protection from various angles, all relevant to the debates that are taking place in Europe today on this issue. Indeed, citizenship has again become a preoccupation all across Europe for the best part of the last decade, in political classes, think tanks and academic circles, as well as welfare pressure groups and other NGOs. Far from being simply a fashionable buzzword soon to be forgotten again, it clearly relates to a whole series of crisis in European societies that have to do with personal and collective identities and with issues of societal and individual responsibilities, duties and rights. The old question: ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ still occupies a central place in the way identities and societies are defined and practically organised. Because the reform programmes of the social security and welfare systems that are now implemented in many countries question the basic tenets that have supporting the Welfare State since the Second World War, issues of solidarity and social responsibility are hotly disputed. This affects citizenship insofar as it concerns the boundaries of identity. At European level, the intricate relationship between identity and welfare protection has been identified as one of the most complex and difficult issue confronting democracies on the continent. This is shown for instance in the studies of the European network on Social Exclusion and the Development of European Citizenship, SEDEC (Roche and van Berkel, 1997).

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