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Citizenship News

EUDO CITIZENSHIP offers a selection of media reports and news summaries on significant legislative changes, court decisions, policy developments, political campaigns or other events concerning citizenship in Europe and beyond.

We welcome suggestions for news items by our users. Proposals including the full text or internet link should be sent to EUDO.Citizenship@eui.eu. The EUDO CITIZENSHIP team will selectively publish news based on their significance and information content. We will not publish items whose content appears to be biased or otherwise problematic.

We will publish news in any European language if an English summary of the content is available.

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Brexit results hit Malta’s IIP

Malta’s much debated Individual Investor Programme (IIP), introduced in 2014, has already seen some drawbacks from the recent decision of the citizens of the United Kingdom (UK) that they no longer wish their country to continue being an European Union (EU) Member State. Times of Malta writes that fearing the loss of free movement to the UK, a number of investors has withdrawn their IIP application. At the same time, Brussels-based Politico has noted that UK citizens might be interested in purchasing the passport of Malta, which would enable them to benefit from the rights of European citizenship.

Read more in Times of Malta, and consult our country profile pages for details of the current and past citizenship legislation in Malta. 

For a discussion of IIP, see our forum debate and Jelena Dzankic’s working paper. For the effects of Brexit on citizenship see our news item.

Romanian Constitutional Court overturns law allowing elected officials with suspended prison sentence to keep office

On 22 June 2016 the Romanian Constitutional Court found that the Law on the status of local elected officials, which allowed elected officials with suspended prison sentence to keep office, was unconstitutional. The Court acted upon a referral from the Romanian president. Initially the President returned the law to the Parliament but the legislative body failed to amend the controversial provisions. According to the Court, allowing convicted elected officials to keep their office brings prejudice to the integrity and responsibility of the public office. The President argued that the law was incompatible with the rule of law principle, undermined public trust and hindered efforts to fight against corruption. According to media reports, 61 mayors received suspended prison sentences last year and Bucharest’s general mayor and six district mayors were arrested under corruption-related charges.

Read more at Euractiv (in Romanian)and Radio Romania International (in English)and check out our country profile pages for details of current and past electoral and citizenship laws in Romania.

Two thirds failed the new Danish citizenship test

Only 31.2 per cent of 2,359 foreign nationals who took the new Danish citizenship test in June passed. The test has been criticised for its heavy emphasis on history, as well as for questions such as which Danish restaurant has 3 Michelin stars and whether society’s rules should prevail over religious beliefs. In order to pass the new test, the applicant is required to answer 32 out of 40 questions (80 per cent). The country’s integration minister Inger Støjberg refused to change the test highlighting that applicants who failed did not study hard enough for the exam.

Read more in The Local and consult our country profile pages for details of current and past citizenship legislation in Denmark.

Brexit and citizenship

By Jelena Dzankic, EUDO CITIZENSHIP

On 23 June, the United Kingdom (UK) held a referendum on whether the country should remain a member of or withdraw from the European Union (EU). A total of 51.9 per cent of citizens, at a turnout of 72.2 per cent, voted that the UK should leave the EU. 

The formal procedure for withdrawing from the EU provides that the UK invokes article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by notifying the European Council of a decision to withdraw from the European Union. The formal notification is followed by a period of negotiations that aim at arranging the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and setting the pillars for the future relationship. Should the negotiations not be concluded within two years from the date of notification (or the period extended by a unanimous vote of the Member States) it will cease to be a Member State by default and the EU Treaties will no longer apply to the UK.

Once the EU treaties cease to apply to the UK, citizens of this country will no longer have the status of EU citizens, because the latter is conditional upon being a citizen of a Member State. This means that UK citizens will also lose the rights associated with EU citizenship, including the freedom of movement and residence in the 27 EU Member States, the right to non-discrimination on grounds of nationality, voting rights in municipal and European Parliament elections, consular protection by another EU country, and so on. In other words, unless the negotiations between the UK and the EU yield a different solution, once the UK is no longer an EU country, over a million of its citizens residing elsewhere within the EU will become third country nationals. Such a change in status would likely limit their residence rights to a single country and exclude them from participating in local and European political processes, except where provided for by national law.

As a consequence, British expatriates in a number of EU countries, such as Belgium (where many UK citizen EU officials reside), Italy, Spain and Sweden have started exploring options for naturalising in these countries. At the same time, in the immediate aftermath of the referendum British citizens in the UK have lodged requests for EU passports, most notably that of Ireland

Many people in the UK are Irish citizens by descent from parents or grandparents born in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland. In some cases, in order to establish their citizenship, they will first need to enter their names on the register of foreign births. But for many people asserting their Irish citizenship which has been dormant is simply a matter of applying for an Irish passport. Newspapers report that the number of demands for Irish passport application papers has been so high that the Post Office in Belfast has run out of application forms on 27 June, while there are also long queues in front of the Irish Passport Offices in London and in Belfast. 

Citizenship applications for other EU Member States also increased in the aftermath of the referendum, even though not as much as those for Irish citizenship. For instance, on 24 June, the Italian consulate in London received 31 applications for this country’s citizenship, while the one in Edinburgh received 4 such requests.

At the same time, around three million EU citizens residing in the UK are in a situation of uncertainty, since their legal residence rights in the UK emanate from the link between their national and EU citizenship. During the electoral campaign, the Leave camp asserted that the EU nationals who are already in the UK would automatically be granted an ‘indefinite leave to remain’, while the Remain camp argued that there would be administrative hurdles for such citizens, because they will lose the right to live and work in the UK derived from their status of EU citizens. Scholars and commentators have highlighted that resolving the issue of legal residence of EU citizens in the UK could result in bureaucratic errors that could potentially have ‘human costs’ and lead to a ‘brain drain

It is still to early to say whether the outcome of the two years negotiation period between the British government and the EU will result in an associated status for the country that would preserve some of the current privileges enjoyed by UK citizens residing in other EU states and EU citizens residing in the UK.  

Special claims for preventing the loss of EU citizenship for UK citizens in Scotland and Northern Ireland, including possible referenda on Scottish independence or Irish reunification, have been made by the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon (Scottish National Party) and the deputy prime minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness (Sinn Fein). Both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted for the UK to remain in the EU, with 62 and 55.8 per cent respectively. In Scotland, the result of an earlier referendum in 2014, which was 45/55 in favour of remaining in the UK may be reversed. However, at this stage it is unclear how these processes will play out in the near or medium term future. 

While the status of both UK citizens residing in the EU and EU citizens residing in the UK will remain unchanged until the cessation of the EU Treaties in the UK, negotiating statuses created by the decoupling of national and EU citizenship will be one of the key issues faced by the British and European policymakers in the coming years. 

 

 *For more information about the current and past citizenship legislation in the UK and other EU Member States, please consult our country profile pages.*

Swiss parliament seeks to facilitate naturalisation for third generation immigrants

The Swiss parliament is considering legislation seeking to facilitate naturalisation of the third immigrant generation. The proposed changes do not include an automatic ius soli. Instead, instead socialisation conditions apply, an age condition (linked to military service) and a permanent residence permit. 

Opponents of reform criticise this “centralisation” of the citizenship law, which under a very general federal framework is mainly a cantonal affair with leeway even for municipalities, which are the formal loci of citizenship in Switzerland. The reform also needs to be approved by referendum.

Read more at SRF (in German), and consult our country profile pages for detailed information on the current and past citizenship legislation in Switzerland