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Maarten Peter Vink and Gerard-René de Groot

the last thirty years, going back in principle to the early 1980s, though occasionally also referring to deeper historical roots of past and current policies.

We observe two broad trends in birthright citizenship policies across Europe since the early 1980s.

(a) Although it was the mid-1980s before most states fully realised the principle of gender equality, there is a clear trend toward completing the equal treatment of women and men with regard to descent-based citizenship attribution. In Central and Eastern Europe, equal treatment largely took place by virtue of post-war Soviet inspired legislation, whereas in Western Europe this was accomplished a few decades later. In the 1990s equal treatment has focused specifically on children born out of wedlock, adopted or born abroad. With regard to the latter category there are also some counter-movements towards limiting the application of ius sanguinis.

(b) There is a clear process of convergence between countries with ius soli and ius sanguinis traditions. While traditional ius sanguinis countries (Belgium, Germany, Greece) have introduced or extended ius soli provisions for second- and third-generation immigrants, classic ius soli countries (the UK, Ireland) have limited these provisions. Despite this converging trend, ius soli remains hotly contested, particularly in the context of debates of multiple citizenship, not only in countries such as the Baltic States with sizeable national minorities, but also in Western Europe (Austria, Denmark, Norway).

Birthright citizenship is symbolically important, but it is certainly not the only way of acquiring citizenship (see Goodman 2010b for an extensive comparative report on naturalisation policies in Europe; see also Waldrauch 2006 for an earlier comparative overview on European regulations on acquisition of citizenship). Yet, whereas naturalisation policies tend to receive most political and scholarly attention, it is obvious that rules on naturalisation are superfluous for those categories of persons who already acquire the citizenship of a country ex lege or can acquire this citizenship by declaration of option. Therefore, all discussions on different naturalisation policies should take place in the light of the grounds for ex lege acquisition of citizenship in the countries involved. Accordingly, in the comprehensive typology that we use as a comparative grid for this project we distinguish thirty-three modes of acquiring citizenship (see Vink and Bauböck 2010).

In this paper we focus largely on the first five modes of acquisition and analyse the wide variety of regulations on the different modes of birthright-based acquisition of citizenship that can be found across European countries (see Box 1 for an overview of relevant modes of acquisition). Because it is related to these provisions, we also discuss provisions regarding citizenship acquisition following adoption (mode A10). We focus exclusively on the legal similarities and differences between countries, within the framework of international law, and leave broader political debates aside (but see, for example, Honohan 2010b on the theory and politics of ius soli in Europe; and Bauböck and Vink 2010 on external citizenship debates).


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

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