Greek Citizenship Code reform
The newly elected socialist government of George Papandreou is planning a drastic reform to the Greek Citizenship Code, the law governing the modes of acquisition of Greek citizenship.
The planned proposals would give Greek citizenship to:
Children born in the country, as soon as one of their parents manages to stay legally in the country for five years, by declaration of their parents
Children who attend the first three grades of grammar school, by their own declaration on their majority (18 years)
Children who attend any six grades of school, by declaration of their parents
Children born in Greece of one parent who was also born in Greece, ipso jure
The reform would also far simplify the requirements for Greek citizenship by adults, abolishing the need to be "of good morals and personality", and to have "knowledge of Greek history and culture", and requiring only that the applicant be in Greece during any 5 of the last 10 years rather than the requirement for 10 years in effect now.
While Greece currently ranks as one of the countries with one of the strictest nationality laws, the planned reforms have no parallel in Europe and will result in its adopting the loosest requirements in the Union.
The repercussions of the reform
There is widespread opposition to the reform, but the Greek constitution allows for a referendum to be carried out only on the initiative of the parliamentary majority, which is held by PASOK, the socialist party. Thus, it is expected that the governent initiative will pass and be enacted into law.
Due to its geographical position, Greece receives about 75% of all illegal third-country migrants into Europe. In the past it has legalized hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants in a series of blanket amnesty decrees.
Turkey does not honor a bilateral agreement with Greece to accept back illegal immigrants. Moreover, European Union regulations forbid the travel of illegal immigrants and asylum seekers from Greece to the rest of the Union. As a result, a large illegal immigrant population has accumulated in Greece.
The government reform is likely to increase immigration pressure on Greece. Moreover, many newly naturalized Greek citizens are unlikely to remain in the country but will use European freedom of movement rules to settle elsewhere in Europe. The dire economic conditions prevalent in Greece are likely to exacerbate this problem.
In essence, the Greek government is opening up a huge loophole into European Union immigration policy that may result in illegal immigrants using Greece to become legal and then proceed to their final destinations.
The Greek government's policies are also likely to negatively affect Greek public finances as naturalized immigrants, who are mostly employed in low-paid work, will have access to welfare benefits currently reserved to Greek citizens. The repercussions for the stability of the Euro zone are unknown.
What must be done
Citizenship law is decided by EU member countries.
However, Greece's newly adopted policies may jeopardize EU immigration policy by creating a "back door" into Europe. It may also jeopardize the stability of the Euro zone by putting a new burden in the already troublesome Greek public finances.
It is imperative for EU citizens and other EU governments to ask Greece for an assessment of the effects its citizenship policies will have on the rest of the Union.