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The Supreme Court cancels the law on the acquisition of Greek citizenship

06 February 2013 / 19:02:35  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The law on Greek citizenship, which was voted in 2010 and adopted with enthusiasm by immigrants, leftists and liberal political parties and various human rights organizations, has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Administrative Court.

As a result of the final decision of the plenum of the supreme judicial institution, all procedures granting Greek citizenship after the enactment of the law in 2010 until today are expected to be cancelled. The law entitled the children of immigrants who were born in Greece and studied at a Greek school for six years to Greek citizenship. Along with this, the results of local elections in the municipalities where immigrants from non-member countries of the European Union voted are likely to be revised under the same law again.

In the reasoning for its decision, the senior judiciary states that the provisions of the law are contrary to the Constitution because the conditions for the acquisition of Greek citizenship regulated by them are formal and insufficient. They are related to the applicant or his family’s time of residence in Greece, the attendance of a Greek school for a certain period of time and a clean criminal record. According to the Supreme Administrative Court, the most significant gap in the law is that it does not provide for a procedure to demonstrate the relationship of the applicant with the Greek nation. Furthermore, the magistrates add that the Constitution entitles only Greek citizens to vote and run in elections. Therefore, it is not possible for people who are not Greek citizens to be entitled to it without making the relevant amendments being made to the Constitution.

GRReporter contacted sociologist and long-time researcher on immigration issues Panos Hatziprokopiou for comment. He analyzes the reasoning of the Supreme Administrative Court as presented by the media because the decision was announced late last night.

"I think that the argument on the right to vote, which the decision grants only to Greek citizens and which can be changed only after a constitutional amendment, is somewhat more neutral, more technical compared with the others. It leaves a "gap" as regards this issue.

The criticism the judges make at the combination of formal and substantive criteria related to who has the right to apply for Greek citizenship is more important in my opinion. The first one is the knowledge of the Greek language, the second is their integration into the social and economic life of the country and the third is the involvement in political life. If we look at the experience of Western European countries, we will see that the acquisition of citizenship and the participation in elections are prerequisites rather than criteria for integration into the specific society. They are certainly not the only ones but they are some of the important prerequisites for it. So, I would note a contradiction between the decision of the Greek court and what is applicable in other European countries with stronger experience in immigration policy".

The researcher defines as interesting the position of those magistrates who were opposed to the decision that granting citizenship is a political choice as well.

"According to them, the Constitution provides the opportunity for applying some different policies and the legal text does not provide for finding a connection with the Greek nation. The second thing they state is that the Constitution makes a clear distinction between the people and the nation. I think this is a sufficient basis to make a clear distinction between the Greek citizen and the man, who belongs to the Greek nation".

Panos Hatziprokopiou believes that if the position of the magistrates who voted against the final decision prevailed, "it would be a step from the so-called right of blood (jus sanguinis) to the right of land (jus soli). I.e. who can be considered a citizen of a country: the one coming from the nation or the one living in a particular country? But the law is void, leaving a "gap" to be filled instead".

According to the researcher, the decision is indicative of the direction, which the next legal text on the subject will take. "Under these conditions, each subsequent law will apparently be conservative whereas the cancellation of the present one will lead to two basic consequences: First, what will happen to the approximately 12,000 people who voted in the local elections in 2011 and to those who run? Second, and more importantly, what will happen to the second-generation immigrants who have submitted their documents to acquire Greek citizenship under this law? I would like to recall here that these are people born and raised in Greece. The cancellation of the law is bringing us back to the impasse the children of immigrants had faced before the vote. These people are fully integrated into Greek society and they often have no connection with the country of origin of their parents".

A few weeks ago and in anticipation of the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court, the Greek Union for Human Rights launched a campaign in support of the acquisition of Greek citizenship by the children of immigrants living in the country.

In their support, the radical left SYRIZA criticized in its announcement today the senior magistrates as regards the adoption of "extremely conservative interpretations of the Constitution and the definition of the Greek nation".

Tags: SocietySecond-generation immigrantsLaw on the acquisition of Greek citizenshipSupreme Administrative Court
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