The Romanian Citizenship Policy compared to other EU Member States

Policy Memo, No.22, July 2011

Authors: Valentina Dimulescu, Andrei Avram

The Romanian Center for European Policies (CRPE) released the report All Quiet on the Eastern Frontier. The Romanian Policy of Regaining Citizenship compared to other EU case studies”.

The report seeks answers to the following questions:

Why do some European capitals get scared when it comes to the Romanian policy of regaining citizenship? How did we get to the current policy and how have the Romanian citizenship laws evolved since 1990? Does the attempt to repair historic injustice by citizenship policy have a justification at the EU level? Have other European countries done this before?  


Briefly, the research points out that:

  • The actual content of the Romanian policy does not justify the restlessness at EU level.
  • The Romanian legislation has evolved shyly and sometimes inconsistently, depending on the priority given to either the Euro-Atlantic integration, either to a special relationship with Moldova.
  • The fact is that Romanian citizenship can be regained on an individual basis and the principle of jus sanguinis is strictly followed (one is a Romanian citizen because one’s parents are/ were Romanian citizens). Therefore, the citizens from Moldova have to go through a long and complicated process, proving that their parents or grandparents were Romanian citizens.  In addition, gaining citizenship does not automatically mean obtaining a passport, which means further long and complex procedures. Hence one cannot talk about millions of new European citizens created overnight by Romania.
  • The citizenship policy is seen in the EU as an attribute of the national state, recognized as such by both the European acquis (including the Schengen acquis) and the decisions of the European Court of Justice.
  • Yes, there are some major prior  EU repairs of historic injustice regarding citizenship, both in the old Member States and in Eastern Europe. Ironically, some of the most adamant countries regarding Bucharest’s policy are the ones which created these precedents.

The precedents discussed by the report are:

  • The German policy of granting citizenship to ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the USSR, considering the ethnic criterion, regardless of whether there was a German citizen in the family or not;
  • Spain offers milder terms regarding gaining the citizenship for those originating in certain territories with special links to the country. In addition, a 2007 law extends the right of citizenship for those who have suffered from political persecution or violence during the Civil War and the Dictatorship. These special rights, along with other compensations for the victims of the Civil War, aimed at a so-called “social reconciliation”, after which the direct descendants of those who were exiled in the ‘30s are granted the citizenship.
  • The UK has a set of very complicated citizenship policy for the former citizens of the British Empire. For those who do not live in the British Isles there are several types of nationality: “British citizen of the overseas territories”, “British national overseas”, “British citizen overseas”, “British subject” or “British protected person”. Those who have the so-called “British citizenship of the overseas territories” automatically received the British citizenship in 2002 by virtue of living in a territory dependent of Great Britain or former part of the Empire (as long as one of the parents was a citizen or legal resident).   
  • Bulgaria allows granting citizenship on the basis of a simple statement of ethnicity (without the request of having a Bulgarian citizen in the family). In Macedonia, the people who hold a Bulgarian passport became the second largest minority, after Albanians. Also, the number of Moldavians holding a Bulgarian passport was around 15000 in 2010.
  • The Polish Citizenship law stipulates the right of repatriation for those who “were removed from their homeland against their will but remained the <<children>> of their home country”. “The Law of Repatriation” from 2000 stipulates the repatriation, granting citizenship and financial support for the Polish who remained in the territories seized by the USSR after the war.
  • The Hungarian Ethnics from territories of the former Austro – Hungarian Empire and their descendants can benefit from a simplified and shorter procedure for granting citizenship.  This happens especially after the recent amendments of the law in May 2010. It is not required to prove previous citizenship, but to prove the plausibility of being Hungarian.
  • The report “EU Trivial. The Romanian Policy to Regain Citizenship compared to other EU Member States’ policy” also includes detailed statistics of each analyzed system, regarding the number of granted citizenships, the motivation and the states of origin of each applicant.

The authors of this report are Andrei Avram (graduate of the Free University of Berlin) and Andreea Valentina Dimulescu (graduate of the Central European University and of the Center for European Integration Studies in Bonn).

This report is part of the “Romania active in the European debate II” project, conducted by the Romanian Center for European Policy (CRPE) and funded by the Soros Foundation within the External Policy Initiative. 

The report ca be downloaded here.