Your thoughts on dual citizenship

Marine Le Pen says France should ban dual nationality. Can you owe allegiance to more than one country?

5 June 2011

The leader of France's far-right Front National party has launched a campaign to ban dual citizenship, on the grounds that it "undermines" republican values.

Marine Le Pen says people are "pulled in different directions" by dual nationality and that this "weakens" their acceptance of French values and customs.

A ban on holding more than one nationality would force them to "choose their allegiance: France or another country".

Have you obtained French nationality - or are you considering it? What were your reasons? If you have dual citizenship, do you agree that it is difficult to owe allegiance to both countries?

Would this proposed ban be enforceable? If you had to renounce one of your nationalities, which would it be? Connexion newsletter readers share their thoughts.

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I submitted my "demande de la nationalité française" in March 2010 and am still waiting for a result. Apparently this is not unusual as it can take up to 2 years.

I am British, born in Dunfermline in 1949. I have been permanently resident in France since retiring in 2002 and possess no property in the UK. France is my home and I decided to apply for French nationality purely as a gesture of good citizenship towards the country which offers me its protection. According to the British Consulate I shall never lose my British Citizenship and will therefore become a person with dual nationality when the papers finally arrive. It will also give me the opportunity to vote in the national and regional elections, to which I am currently excluded.

The newspaper article by the FN is pure electioneering and hasn’t any real substance given the fact that they have absolutely no chance of ever getting elected. It’s just because they always do well in the first round and people tend to vote for them because they don’t like the incumbent, Sarkozy.

Bruce Lindsay

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Is it not nationalism that causes racial hatred and wars? No country owns me, they might get my taxes and obedience to their laws, but
that is as far as it goes with me.

Philip Barlow

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Ecology minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said the Front National had failed to realise that some countries do not allow people to give up citizenship. The United Kingdom is one of these countries.

The FN may be thinking about this question of nationality only in the context of foreign-born people who have gained French citizenship subsequently. It seems they claim that such people have a lukewarm loyalty to France.

Perhaps it forgets about those French-born people who have gained other nationalities, but nevertheless keep their loyalty principally French. Do not the two balance out?

Patrick Sturges

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Marine Le Penn is a very dangerous woman, far more dangerous than her father as she is charming, pretty (always a factor with Frenchmen) and highly articulate. She is the acceptable face of the unacceptable i.e. racism by the back door.

Migration, particularly economic migration, remains a challenging issue throughout Europe, and it is easy when times are hard to forget the beneficial effects of migration: the cross-pollination of ideas, the flexibility of a workforce, the influx of wealth gained elsewhere. When there is an economic downturn people become fearful and do all sorts of things they wouldn't otherwise do. This is how some of the atrocities of the last world war arose. Sadly, as a species, we don't seem to have learnt our lesson and such atrocities continue to be carried out in the world, to such an extent that it makes one wonder whether humanity has really advanced in the civilized way we like to think we have.

No immigrant will ever become truly French, although their offspring may do so. The subtleties of any culture are enormous. My experience in the Dordogne leads me to think that the better I become at speaking French, the more I am aware of such subtleties, but that I shall never truly overcome such cultural differences. And why should I want to lose all of my British cultural identity? I am proud of it, but I have chosen France as my adoptive country and I would hope that it wants to adopt me. I have worked here, contributed to Associations here, made the effort to participate and become politically aware here, and actively participated in the life of the village.

If we want the right to carry dual citizenship, and I do, then we must accept the responsibilities that that implies: to learn the language, to be respectful towards the French cultural norms and to keep within the law. The world is changing at an increasingly rapid rate. Whereas we have had problems in the past we have never had the predicaments that we are now facing, global predicaments that don't necessarily have a solution, predicaments where we have to pull together globally in order to make the
most of this beautiful world. France is so big and under-populated that it could encompass the entire population of the British Isles without really noticing, so where is the problem? By all means have a debate on migration, not just immigration, but recognize Le Penn's proposal for what it is, a reactionary response rooted in inappropriate and unsustainable 20th century 'solutions' which pander to people's fears. The twenty-first century needs visionary approaches which go beyond nationalism.

Brenda Henderson

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I do not have dual nationality, even though almost everyone in my family has: my husband is Canadian and French, so are my daughter and son, and my grandsons have 4 nationalities : irish, french, canadian and spanish.... I acquire my nationality when I was 4 years old, when my italian parents took french citizenship. I lost my italian citizenship then, that's the way it was done.

I have relatives leaving in France, Italy, Canada, and Ireland. I have absolutly no roots in France, but I live here and enjoy this little corner of the earth. I love Italy, and feel transformed when I go there and am drowned in italian language. I have lived in Ontario, and since many of my relatives are there, as well as my husband's family, I go back there and have a great time. I have been to Ireland several times to visit my daughter's family and found the country enticing and friendly. I have spanish friends, venezuelan friends, lebanese friends, american friends and english friends, in fact my best friends are not french. All this to say that I wouldn't know what to do if I had to choose a nationality.

I'd take european nationality if it existed, just to explain where I come from, but ideally citizen of the earth would be my choice. When having to take side, having dual, triple, quadruple.... nationalities forces you into reflection, instead of plain animal reaction. And more thoughts lead to less fights? You realize that you cannot judge a country as a whole, but accept that it's composed of individuals with the same essential needs, fears and feelings.

Annie Parlane

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I really don't think this concerns citizens of another European Union country, such as Britain or others within the Union. We all have EU passports and are governed for the most part by EU laws and directives.

Yvonne Guillotel

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How people react to the flag or how they respect France in general depends on how they've been treated by France, their adopted country. People arrive with high expectations and are often disappointed, often due to racism in France. I received French citizenship by marriage when it was still automatic and feel all the more rich for having two nationalities--French and American. I am proud to American and would never renounce it. But I am also proud to be part of the French culture which has so much to be admired. I feel that I am a good citizen in France while retaining ties to the US. I have always been encouraged by my French family to keep the American culture and language and I have no reason to pretend to be French=born. But I haven't been discriminated against! If it were a perfect world...! I actually feel more discrimination from Brits who pretend to be the sole speakers of good English!!!!!

Barbara Jacquin

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Torn loyalty? I was born in England. My Mother was English, my Father was born in the Irish Republic. I have a UK Passport and an Irish Passport and by default, was considered an Irish citizen by the Irish authorities. Therefore, I have dual nationality. I have no trouble with loyalty to either nation. If I had been born in France to a French Mother, I would still have default Irish Citizenship. I feel very privileged to live in France but feel that this proposed ban on a French citizen holding any other nationality is just a silly divisive stunt at a time when there are far more serious issues to be addressed. It is in my opinion, on par with (and should be given as much credence as) Ryanair's proposal to charge passengers to use aircraft toilets.

Ian Walsh

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We moved from Canada to France in 1999 and, after years of complicated paper-chasing, I became a French citizen in December 2007, because this is where I intend to live for the rest of my life and I believe in being fully committed to whatever choice I've made. I wanted to vote and to *be*French, as much as anyone not born in this country can be. I've kept my Canadian citizenship, because my education, attitudes and values are Canadian, but I've never had a problem with conflicting loyalties.

However, if I were forced to choose - and I don't believe that will ever happen - I would have to let go my Canadian citizenship. France is my home now.

Susan Wallis

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I became a French citizen last week, along with about 80 other people from 20 countries. It was an impressive and moving ceremony. Having lived in France for 30 years, I decided that I want to fully participate in the political life of this country. I kept my American citizenship, both because I see no reason to be deprived of my rights there because of acquisition of citizenship here and because there is no legal requirement to give it up. It seems to me that seeing the positive and negative aspects of life in each country makes me a better citizen of both.

When Marine Le Pen says that dual nationality "weakens" acceptance of French values and customs, it is necessary to ask whether racism, while frequently one of France's customs, is necessarily one of its values. I have had the privilege of voting for an Afro-American as president of the United States and look forward to the day when France permits full access to public life of first or second generation immigrants (whether or not dual citizens), resulting in the appropriate evolution of its customs and the strengthening of its values.

L.L., Marseille

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The first Republican principle is Liberty – but this is something that the right wing seems to have a great deal of difficulty with. In a true, free democracy governments should seek to control their citizens as little as possible, whether it concerns their wishes about dual nationality, what flags they fly, what they wear or almost anything else. Liberty assumes a liberal society, where government acts on behalf of and with the consent of the population, but with as light a touch as possible, and within a sensible legal framework that does not impinge on individual liberties. As far as dual nationality is concerned, there are many instances where a foreigner marries a French person, and has a great love for France, but retains love of their country of origin too. Choosing to have the nationality of both nations does not weaken their acceptance of French values or customs – why should it? And why should their children not be able to have the nationalities of both their parents if they so choose? I am sure that people with dual nationality make a great contribution to breaking down barriers of understanding that, in the past, have led to enmity between nations; and anyway, even though some people might not like the idea of dual nationality, it is part and parcel of the concepts of liberty and democracy that you accept the right of others to choose how they live, even if you do not like all of their choices yourself.

Philip Baker

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In December 2008, after a five year wait I became a French citizen. I chose to do so because this is the country in which I live and it shares my beliefs: no monarchy, no class system rather equality, freedom of thought and speech and brotherhood. I was amazed that I could retain my UK passport. I never use it because I am French. I have never really understood dual nationality. For whom would you fight in a war? Which sports team would you support? When it came to it where would you rather be remembered and in whose green fields would you lie after death? For that matter where do you wish to die? Of course dual nationality makes no sense at all. "When you cut open my heart," said Mary Queen of Scots, "you will find Calais engraved there". Even as a queen she could not really believe in a dual nationality. I wonder what Eleanor of Acquitaine might have said? Certainly Sissi never really left Bavaria in her heart although she was Empress of Austria. With notable exceptions ( a member of parliament - David McAllister - who is Scottish and German), Germany does not allow dual nationality. Why? Because it just is not possible to be loyal to two nations. Let's face it after living with a torn apart country and FDR vs DDR the Germans might just have something to add here.

When I attended my naturalisation ceremony, we sang our national anthem and it filled me with pride. And then we sang the European anthem because not only are we French we are European. So being French is part of being an element of a whole. It is the French part, not Greek or Irish or Spanish. I will not be voting for Le Pen next year, although since the Americans (or who else?) have trashed Straus Kahn I fear it will be a final run between Le petit Nicolas and Marie Le Penn, but sometimes she has the guts to say what we French really think. I am proud to be a member of a nation whose citizens have the courage of their convictions. If we don't like it, we don't do it. We strike when we feel our views are not being heard and instead of moaning we get out there and DO something: we most certainly tell Brussels where they should make changes (often in far stronger language than I dare to use here) and we do it from our French hearts as good Europeans.

Yes of course I still speak English, German too as it happens but my country, my language and my spirit are and will ever remain, French. Vive la France!

Jane Allan

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A very interesting subject – I have some experience in the form of three variations on this theme:

1. My father, a crazed Francophile, spent the last twenty years of his life in this country, and in his old-fashioned way believed it was a matter of courtesy to apply for the nationality of the country in which my mother and he had chosen to settle. First, he was required to prove that he had not been on the wrong side during the war (he had gone to some trouble, like thousands of his compatriots, to put things right at Dunkirk, in Normandy, and elsewhere). They would not accept my mother’s translation of his credentials from Montgomery, amongst others – these had to be translated by someone properly assermenté… I can only presume that the person dealing with their application was a fully paid-up member of the communist party, holed up in some windowless office in Draguignan, who then insisted on their having a medical, to ensure my 64 year-old mother wasn’t sneaking in here to have a baby on the welfare, or my father to have some unmentionable disease expensively treated at the French taxpayer’s expense. The doctor, chosen from their list, refused my father’s cheque in payment. It took two years for the authorities to decree that they could not have French nationality, on the spurious grounds that ‘his income was not generated in France’ – I have never understood the thinking behind this decision, since he was one of the few foreign residents I knew of at the time who paid income tax down to the last centime on his modest pension to the French government. However, they took it on the chin.

2. My youngest son, in his early twenties, wanted to join the army. He holds a British passport. When he applied, he was told he was required to have French nationality, which indeed seemed fair enough. He pointed out that he was born to a French mother on French soil, and consequently believed he was entitled to French nationality without any formality. It was explained to him, by a remarkably unattractive woman with a permanent cold, clearly related to the one who had dealt with my parents’ request all those years ago, that it was nothing like as simple as that, and he had to constitute the inevitable dossier. This took two months, since amongst other nonsense it included digging out his school reports back to when he was 12 years old. It did cross my mind that it might have been simpler if he were not, with his fair hair and blue eyes, fairly obviously descended from the Norsemen, and perhaps he should not have admitted that he knew how to read and write. It might have helped if he’d told a bit of a porky and claimed to being persecuted by the Scottish nationalists – we’ll never know… After a month, I suggested he ring them up to see how his application was going. He was told that they had such a backlog of work that they wouldn’t be able to even consider his case for… a year. When the year was nearly up, he got a rather terse note from the ridiculously self-styled sous-préfette (a female under-Préfet), returning his unopened file, saying that she had no idea why he had bothered them with all this – by virtue of his mother’s nationality and his place of birth, not only was he French but he had forfeited the right NOT to be French by not saying he didn’t want French nationality during the six months leading up to his eighteenth birthday. Interestingly, her name is very obviously Polish. A whole year of my son’s young life completely wasted. I wrote to her suggesting that she owed my son an apology, but all I got back was a shrug of the shoulders in telegraphic form.

3. A friend of mine travelling from Frankfurt to London was changing planes in Paris. On leaving Roissy, the immigration chap looked at his (British) passport, made a phone call, and within a few minutes my chum was marched off manu militari – literally - by a couple of heavily armed soldiers. His belt, tie and laces were removed, and he was placed in solitary confinement for several hours. No one would tell him why. It turned out that the clever immigration chap had seen that this British national was born in Paris, and consequently had been arrested as a deserter (National Service was still going on in France at the time). When they finally released him, they made it clear that it was only out of the kindness of the heart of a senior officer, and that he was jolly lucky not to have been sentenced to one year’s hard labour. His mother had given birth to him a week earlier than expected, when she too, happened to find herself there in transit…

Unquestionably, it is a wonderful country, and I am very happy to be able to live here. The wine, women, weather, cheeses and landscapes (in no particular order) are incomparable, but I do hope they think it out before passing some new law on French nationality…

Hugo Skillington

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