Deprivation of Citizenship across Europe

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 - The majority of countries in the European Union have laws which authorize them to revoke citizenship for particular crimes or offences. But only one other country, Malta, has laws as far reaching as what the French government proposed last month.

In France the procedure of revoking citizenship is, for the moment, rarely invoked thanks to strict controls. For example, in order to satisfy the requirements of Article 25 of the French Civil Code, a naturalized citizen must be convicted of crimes or offences harmful to the “the fundamental interests of the nation,” like terrorism, or acts to deliver “benefit to a foreign state” that are incompatible with their French citizenship or prejudicial to French interests.

These restrictive conditions are the same as those found in other countries of Europe. Only Malta is an exception, punishing foreigners who commit crimes by depriving them of nationality ─ a citizen sentenced to a term exceeding one year in prison in the seven years following his naturalization will automatically lose his Maltese status.

In other European countries it must be shown that the offender has seriously endangered the security of the state, or that the person poses a real threat to national interests to justify revoking nationality: war crimes, terrorism or having served in a ‘hostile army,’ are examples of accepted grounds.

Rules are restrictive because the law authorizing this procedure must comply with national, European and international conventions. Article 16 of the German constitution for example, provides that “no German may be deprived of his citizenship” and naturalized citizenship may only be removed if the offender “does not become stateless as a result.”

Similarly, a large number of European countries – with the notable exception of France – have ratified the European Convention on Nationality from the Council of Europe, which states that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his or her nationality” and that “Each State Party shall be guided by the principle of non-discrimination between its nationals, whether they are nationals by birth or have acquired its nationality subsequently.”

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