In the aftermath of the Paris attacks in November last year the French President, Francois Hollande, saw his chance to unite the French people against a common enemy. He announced his decision to join the coalition bombing campaign against ISIS and introduced a policy change regarding French citizenship, stating on November 16th, “We must be able to revoke the French citizenship of a person convicted for threatening the nation’s interests or for terrorist attacks.”
Whilst on the face of it this seems to be applicable to all French citizens, Hollande’s reform only applies to dual nationality citizens and involves revoking the citizenship of an individual carrying both a French passport and another nation’s, as opposed to stripping a French-born citizen of his citizenship.
The proposed reform gained immediate traction amongst the French public and in an opinion poll it was estimated that 80-85% of France supported Hollande’s new policy. However, as time has gone on and France has slowly come to terms with the Paris attacks, Hollande has had to face up to criticisms of his new reforms.
Many see the proposals as fundamentally against France’s moto of ‘Liberté, fraternité et égalité.’ It deliberately discriminates against those who possess dual citizenship (approximately 3 million in France), and calls into question France’s ability to support immigrants’ integration into society. The country is notorious for its failure to integrate either 1st or 2nd generation immigrants into society, and Hollande’s citizenship policy will further emphasise immigrants’ feelings of being different and stigmatised by society. In addition, it will serve to increase their distrust in the principles of ‘Liberté, fraternité et égalité’ – words which will be considered to be exceptionally hollow if the reform passes.
As well as criticisms of Hollande’s betrayal of Republican values, many politicians have expressed their horror at the Government’s decision to swing dangerously to the right – beating a drum which has been championed by Marine Le Pen and the National Front for some time.
it will serve to increase their distrust in the principles of ‘Liberté, fraternité et égalité’
For years Le Front National has promoted this policy. Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s father and founder of the extreme right wing party, supported the idea of removing people’s nationalities and finally saw it tabled and suggested by Sarkozy in 2010. However, it is this recent proposal by Hollande which has worried people most and is viewed as the most extreme. Former minister Cecile Duflot has said that the reform is an “ideological gift to the National Front.” Hollande is drawing into the mainstream an idea which should remain on the banks of the political spectrum, as it is akin to legitimising the institutionalised racism implicit in Le Front National’s policies.
While some point to Hollande’s decision to appeal to right wing voters as the main criticism, it is important to consider whether a policy of stripping dual nationals of their French citizenship is even a solution to preventing terrorism. In seems to me to represent France’s unwillingness to take responsibility and it’s populist naivety in thinking that stripping someone’s nationality is an effective means to limit terrorism.
No terrorist is going to have his or her ideology determined by whether they will still be able to claim French nationality after the event, a sentiment echoed by Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, “stripping someone’s nationality is not a weapon against terrorism.” It seems to me that the reform is a knee jerk reaction to try and gain public support in a time when the French public are impressionable and vulnerable.
the reform is a knee jerk reaction to try and gain public support
Not only will the reform not prevent terrorism, but it does not deal with the question of what to do with jihadists who are native Frenchmen. How is it possible to strip a jihadist of their nationality when they have two nationalities but not when they only claim French nationality? It creates a dangerous double standard which legitimises discrimination and categorically denies French citizens the chance of égalité.
However, the issue of responsibility is most concerning. By acting in this way France has demonstrated a failure of collective responsibility for Europe as a whole and has looked only at immediate self-preservation. This sort of isolationist attitude is not feasible or desirable in the 21st Century and France a key member of the EU and with responsibilities under the Schengen agreement. By stripping an individual of their French citizenship merely passes the responsibility to another country which adds further strain between European countries at a time where diplomacy and goodwill are essential.
While one can understand Francois Hollande’s desire to present France as a strong and united country in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, in my opinion his proposed reform is a dangerous precedent for one of Europe’s leading countries to be setting. Integration and unity is what is needed, not discrimination and isolation.