France will be making it harder for foreigners to seek French citizenship as of January
PARIS - Foreigners trying to become French citizens would be facing harder procedures as of next January under new rules drawn by Interior Minister Claude Guéant, including tougher language tests and allegiance to “French values.”
“Becoming French is not a mere administrative step. It is a decision that requires a lot of thought”, reads the charter, drafted by France’s High Council for Integration (HCI) and cited by France 24 on Friday, December 30.
The charter also suggests that by taking on French citizenship, “applicants will no longer be able to claim allegiance to another country while on French soil”, although dual nationality will still be allowed.
Coming into force as of January 1, the rules drawn up by Interior Minister Guéant, include new tougher tests.
Candidates will be tested on French culture and history, and will have to prove their French language skills are equivalent to those of a 15-year-old mother tongue speaker.
They will also be required to sign a new charter establishing their rights and responsibilities.
Guéant, a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party, described the process as “a solemn occasion between the host nation and the applicant.”
He added that migrants should be integrated through language and “an adherence to the principals, values and symbols of our democracy”.
In comments seen as targeting the Muslim applicants, who make up the majority of the 100,000 new French citizens admitted each year, Guéant stressed the importance of the secular state and equality between women and men.
France’s interior minister has made it clear that immigrants who refuse to “assimilate” into French society should be denied French citizenship.
Other proposals put forward by the ruling UMP party said that non-French children who would normally be naturalized at the age of 18 (those who are born in the country and have spent most of their childhood there) would instead have to formally apply to the state.
Under such amendments, analysts predict a return to an immigration stance in 1993 Charles Pasqua, then France’s interior minister.
Pasqua, who coined the slogan “zero immigration”, introduced a bill that made it virtually impossible for children born in France to non-French parents to be naturalized.
Far Right Effect
The new citizenship rules were seen as appealing to far-right voters, amid other efforts by the French government to secure a second term for President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012.
Guéant’s stance as “the election strategy of a right wing ready to do anything in order to hold on to power,” François Hollande, the Socialist Party’s candidate in forthcoming presidential elections, said.
Hollande added that his own party would tackle all criminals “irrespective of their nationality”.
In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose popularity has plummeted over climbing unemployment and painful spending cuts, have worked hard to court the far-right supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Along with the niqab ban, Sarkozy’s ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party started a debate last April on the role of Islam in secular France.
Despite Guéant moves against immigrants, the far-right National Front party (FN) continued to bite into its pool of voters.
Marine Le Pen, the leader of the anti-immigration FN, has been campaigning in favor of a ban on dual citizenship in France, which she blames for encouraging immigration and weakening French values.
Guéant has stopped short of calling for a ban on dual nationality, largely because of the legal difficulties such a move would entail.
But the interior minister has taken a hard line on immigration, announcing plans to reduce the number of legal immigrants coming to France annually from 200,000 to 180,000 and calling for those convicted of felony to be expelled from the country.
The anti-immigrants moves were not the first by the French government.
Earlier this year, Guéant intervened personally to ensure an Algerian-born man living in France was denied French nationality because of his “degrading attitude” to his French wife.
That followed an earlier push by France’s former Immigration Minister Eric Besson to revise existing laws in order to strip polygamists of their acquired citizenship.
Last February, 2010, the French government decided to deny the nationality to a Muslim man over allegations that he has forced his French wife to wear the face-veil.
In 2008, a court denied a veiled Muslim woman the nationality for being "too submissive" to her husband and that her religious rituals were "incompatible" with French values.