Citizenship Deprivation: A Normative Analysis

Thursday, 19 March 2015
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Most critical analyses assess citizenship-deprivation policies against international human rights and domestic rule of law standards, such as prevention of statelessness, non-arbitrariness with regard to justifications and judicial remedies, or non-discrimination between different categories of citizens. This report considers instead from a political theory perspective how deprivation policies reflect specific conceptions of political community. We distinguish four normative conceptions of the grounds of membership in a political community that apply to decisions on acquisition and loss of citizenship status: i) a ‘State discretion’ view, according to which governments should be as free as possible in pursuing State interests when determining citizenship status; ii) an ‘individual choice’ view, according to which individuals should be as free as possible in choosing their citizenship status; iii) an ‘ascriptive community’ view, according to which both State and individual choices should be minimised through automatic determination of membership based on objective criteria such as the circumstances of birth; and iv) a ‘genuine link’ view, according to which the ties of individuals to particular States determine their claims to inclusion and against deprivation while providing at the same time objections against including individuals without genuine links. We argue that most citizenship laws combine these four normative views in different ways, but that from a democratic perspective the ‘genuine link’ view is normatively preferable to the others. The report subsequently examines five general grounds for citizenship withdrawal – threats to public security, non-compliance with citizenship duties, flawed acquisition, derivative loss and loss of genuine links – and considers how the four normative views apply to withdrawal provision motivated by these concerns. The final section of the report examines whether EU citizenship provides additional reasons for protection against Member States’ powers of citizenship deprivation. We suggest that, in addition to fundamental rights protection through EU law and protection of free movement rights, three further arguments could be invoked: toleration of dual citizenship in a political union, prevention of unequal conditions for loss among EU citizens, and the salience of genuine links to the EU itself rather than merely to one of its Member States. 

Rainer Bauböck is at the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence and Vesco Paskalev is at Hull University. This paper was prepared in the context of the ILEC project (Involuntary Loss of European Citizenship: Exchanging Knowledge and Identifying Guidelines for Europe), which aims to establish a framework for debate on international norms on involuntary loss of nationality.