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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pledging Allegiance: The Debate about Dual Nationality in France

I think I mentioned in a previous post that Marine Le Pen of the Far Right French party, Le Front National, has expressed in the past in several interviews, her distaste for the idea of dual-nationality for French citizens.

Well recently she came out swinging by sending a letter to all 577 representatives in the National Assembly asking that they do the "republican" thing and require all French dual nationals to choose their allegiance to France or to the other country.  Her language is quite direct:
Dans l’intérêt de la France et des autres nations, dans l’intérêt en particulier de nos relations avec l’Algérie, premier pays concerné, il est ainsi nécessaire d’engager une démarche authentiquement républicaine en mettant fin  à la double nationalité, et de demander à chacun de nos compatriotes placés dans cette situation, de choisir son allégeance : la France, ou un autre pays. 
Translation - "In the interests of France and of other nations, in the interest in particular of our relationship to Algeria, the first country concerned, it is necessary to start an authentically republican move to end dual nationality and to ask all of our countrymen in this situation to choose one allegiance:  France or another country."  
In her letter (full text can be found here) Marine Le Pen pulls out many of the traditional arguments against plural nationality: divided loyalties, destruction of national solidarity, a detriment to assimilation, participation in elections in two different countries and so on.  She singles out Algerians which, to me, guarantees that she is up to no good.  I also found it odd because I saw a study that said Algerians were one of the immigrant groups in France the least likely to become French citizens.  Americans were another, by the way....

One of the first and best replies to this was written by Hughes Serraf.  His post,  "La 5e colonne, elle ne passera pas par moi!" is a very funny and pertinent poke at Le Pen.  He proposes that the reason she chose Algeria as an example in her letter was because of its relative neutrality. It's the English she's really after, he says,  with tongue firmly in cheek.  His wife, you see, is British and their children are dual citizens). So as a good Frenchman fulfilling his duty to the nation:
Je vais les réunir dans le salon sous un prétexte quelconque et je vais leur expliquer, gentiment mais fermement, que « la multiplicité des appartenances à d'autres nations contribue aujourd'hui, et d'une manière de plus en plus préoccupante, à affaiblir chez nos compatriotes l'acceptation d'une communauté de destin ».  Là, je leur fais confiance, elles vont me filer leurs passeports british, je vais les foutre à la poubelle et on n’en parlera plus. 
Translation - "I will find some pretext to take my family into the living room and I will explain to them, gently but firmly, that 'the multiplication of affiliations to other nations contributes today, in a more and more disturbing fashion, to the weakening of our fellow citizens acceptance of our community of destiny.'  Now I am sure that they will trust me and hand over their British passports which I will then throw into the wastebasket and we will speak no more of it."  
Read the entire piece - it is hysterically funny (Serraf is a gifted satirist) and it illustrates beautifully how absurd and cruel the result of such legislation would be if it were played out in the households of hundreds of thousands of French families.

An equally good,  albeit more serious, response came from the master himself, Patrick Weil.  In this article published in Marianne, Weil counters all of Le Pen's arguments brilliantly.  He argues that dual nationality is a factor toward greater integration (not less) and a plus for the influence of France in the world.  He reminds everyone that past laws against dual nationality have been highly discriminatory toward women with Frenchwomen losing their nationality if they married foreign men and not having the right to pass their citizenship to their children (this was true until the middle of the 20th century.)   In his view Le Pen shows a shocking lack of confidence in France itself and her capacity to unite people around her powerful and universal values:  equality, the French language, the Revolution and the separation of church and state (secularism).  He ends with this call for the French to return to those values:
Autour de ses valeurs la France garde un énorme potentiel d’intégration et de rayonnement dans monde, et pour cela les binationaux sont un atout: il nous faut donc sortir d’un débat régressif et malsain qui nous rabougrit, sortir de ces divisions artificielles et se tourner vers un avenir à construire ensemble."  
Translation - "With these values France keeps her enormous potential for integration and for influencing  the world and for these things her bi-nationals are a strength.
What I admire most about Patrick Weil's piece is how he counters a negative initiative with an uplifting positive vision of all that France is and could be.   That, my friends, is exactly the right way to inspire people to love a country and create loyal citizens out of residents.

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