This special feature was prepared by MPG for the European Website on Integration (EWSI) and it concerns Access to Nationality for Third-country Nationals in European countries.
Nationality/citizenship law is never static. This past year there have been changes to the rules for acquiring citizenship in certain European countries. For example a few months ago Poland revised her residency requirements (lowered them from 5 to 3 years) for certain categories of foreigners. Belgium on the other hand is tightening her requirements and is making it harder for foreigners to naturalize.
What is fascinating about this is that on some level all this different country-specific naturalization requirements and procedures are useless. Remember that once an immigrant becomes a citizen in one member state, he or she is an EU citizen and so has the right to move to any other EU state. So Belgium can certainly tighten her requirements for citizenship if that makes Belgians feel better but it's not going to do much good if other countries are doing the exact opposite and relaxing their requirements for obtaining citizenship. It also has the rather nasty result of pitting different EU countries against each other in the chase for desirable migrants and future productive tax-paying citizens. Some sort of harmonization of these requirements across the EU just seems logical. I think they will get there eventually - it just doesn't make any sense to do otherwise - but for the moment I imagine the political climate is not right.
Some other interesting tidbits from this report:
Citizenship ceremonies: some European countries have decided to start holding ceremonies to swear in new citizens (Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK) and in some cases new citizens are being required to take a loyalty oath.
Citizenship via jus soli: There is a definite trend where countries that used to allow transmission of citizenship primarily via blood (jus sanguinis) are moving toward granting it via birth on that country's soil (jus soli). However it is usually not an unqualified jus soli like one sees in the United States - there are conditions that must be met before citizenship is automatically granted on this basis. The EUDO citizenship policy brief reports:
Ius soli has, for example, been introduced or strengthened in Germany (2000), Portugal (2006), Luxembourg (2009) and Greece (2010), while ius soli was removed in Malta (1989) and qualified in Ireland (2004). Ireland was the last pure ius soli regime in Europe, and here it has been made subject to additional conditions.
The trend is thus towards the wider availability of ius soli citizenship, but in more conditional forms, dependent on limited forms of prior parental residence and other conditions identified with integration.
Naturalization Procedure Reforms: Some countries were looking into making the process easier and simpler. Portugal, Germany and Romania had initiatives to encourage foreigners to apply for citizenship and will help them through the process. All of them cited in the MPG report are rather old (the latest one is the Romanian 2009 project). It would be interesting to know if that trend continued or if the Great Recession killed it.
And finally (and I thought this was a lovely idea) MPG linked to an article about one region in Italy which held honorary citizenship ceremonies for children of foreigners born in that Italian region. It's not legal and these kids don't really get Italian citizenship as a result (they have to apply at age 18) but it's a powerful symbolic act and a very nice way of saying, "we consider you to be one of us."
According to the article, during the ceremony, "The children will be presented with a certificate attesting to their new nationality, a copy of the constitution, the tricolour flag and the sweater worn by the Italian football team."
Except for the soccer jersey, it sounds lovely. Sorry, I am not at all a fan of "le foot." :-)