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Birthright Citizenship

8 Concluding reflections

When looking at birthright citizenship policies in European countries from the early 1980s to today, it quickly becomes obvious that not only is there still a large degree of diversity between countries, but also that there is no point in speaking of an unspecified process of convergence. Even with regard to the long-established observation of convergence towards making citizenship accessible to second-generation immigrants, mainly observed in Western Europe (Hansen and Weil 2001: 10), there is no common model. Whereas Belgium and Germany have introduced ius soli provisions at birth for the second generation, others have only introduced provisions for the attribution of iure soli citizenship after birth, usually from the age of 18. Moreover, there are often striking differences in terms of the way in which citizenship is acquired: ex lege (as in the German case), by declaration (as in Belgium), or only as a form of facilitated naturalisation (as in Austria).

At the same time we note that, despite the sometimes seemingly ‘bewildering complexity of rules and regulations’ (Bauböck et al. 2006a: 20), a number of broad trends can be distinguished which, overall but certainly not always, tend to indicate a convergence of national policies rather than the opposite. With regard to birthright citizenship, the two main trends that we observed in this paper are the (near-)fulfilment of the equal treatment of men and women with regard to the descent-based transmission of citizenship, and the convergence between traditional ius sanguinis and ius soli systems.

On the acquisition by descent, there is a tendency to provide increasingly often for an acquisition of citizenship iure sanguinis a patre for children born out of wedlock if the paternity is established. Moreover, we can witness that several states are struggling with the citizenship consequences of medically assisted reproductive techniques.

On territorial elements, many countries have, inter alia, introduced or modified grounds for ex lege acquisition based on territorial elements (birth on the territory (ius soli/ double ius soli) or residence within the territory (ius domicilii: residence of a parent or residence of the person involved) or provide for option rights based on these elements. The details of these regulations vary considerably from country to country. However, their aim is always to promote the citizenship integration of persons permanently living on a state’s territory.

A third trend, that we do not discuss here, as it is mainly related to ordinary naturalisation procedures, is the increasingly broad acceptance of multiple citizenship, certainly in Western Europe (cf. Vink and De Groot 2010: 722). European countries are increasingly less likely to require the renunciation of one’s previous citizenship as a precondition for naturalisation. Another side of this coin is that fewer countries than before now have provisions on the automatic loss of citizenship due to the voluntary acquisition of another citizenship.

We raise this third trend here, however, as it is very clearly a result of the trends in birthright citizenship. In a globalised world where international migration and mixed marriages become increasingly more commonplace, increasingly equal access to the citizenship of both the father and the mother, as well as to the country of birth, are likely to have an exponential effect on the occurrence of multiple citizenship. Within this scenario, and notwithstanding dialectical processes in domestic politics where populist parties often try to capitalise on the sentiments of those who are excluded from these globalisation processes (Howard 2010), countering multiple citizenship in naturalisation procedures becomes an increasingly less viable political strategy. It is in this perspective remarkable that Germany,

RSCAS/EUDO-CIT-Comp. 2010/8 - © 2010 Authors


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