Monday, June 6, 2011

Weil Defends Dual Nationality

Patrick Weil defends dual nationality against Marine Le Pen and others, who have proposed eliminating it.


Cincinna said...

As an American, I do not understand the concept or rational for dual citizenship.
In the US it is prohibited. For a foreigner to become a US citizen, with all it's rights, privileges and obligations, one must renounce allegiance to any foreign power, and foreign citizenship. There are very few acts that can cause one's citizenship to be revoked. One is prohibited from serving in a foreign army, or voting in a foreign election.
This policy of forbidding dual citizenship and dual allegiance is as old as the Condtitution itself.
No protests of consequence, right or left in 220+ years, and none are expected.

Arthur Goldhammer said...

But if you're an American, you can accept foreign citizenship without renouncing your American. And I know many who have done so. You can also serve in a foreign army. So what's the rationale for this asymmetry?

Mitch Guthman said...

I have a lot of respect for Patrick Weil but I don’t understand the basic premise of his argument. I may be reading too much into a couple of paragraphs, but I understand him to be saying, soto voice, that Frenchness is no more and the next big thing is European integration. So, apparently, it doesn’t matter whether some people who happen to live in France see themselves as “French” or as something else because soon we will simply be the United States of Europe so there is no need for a French national identity. (I have read other things he’s written, mostly in English, and this seem view inconsistent with his previously expressed ideas---so I’m open to suggestions that I have misunderstood this portion of his argument)

Yet, even within that context, I don’t understand how duel nationality aids in the integration into French society of people who have come almost exclusively as economic migrants and are seen as outsiders by the people already here and perhaps by themselves, too. How does allowing immigrants to cling to their own cultures, traditions and (above all else) national loyalties facilitate their integration into a highly secular society which is deeply committed to a certain distinctly French cultural identity? If they aren't ultimately to be integrated, then what? To my mind the British experiment with multiculturalism has been nothing short of ruinous.

And, since he brings it up, I specifically fail to see how duel nationality for persons who have immigrated (for economic reasons) from Muslim countries with strong state religions promotes acceptance of his four pillars of French nationality. La laïcité, for example, is not simply a foreign concept in certain Muslim countries but a blasphemous one. If the French identity revolves around these four pillars can you really be French and also be a citizen of, for example, a country with a monarchy or a state religion?

TexExile said...

Cincinna really needs to do some homework before posting rather than relying on urban myths.

Just to be clear, here is what the US State Department has to say on the subject:

"A U.S. citizen may acquire foreign citizenship by marriage, or a person naturalized as a U.S. citizen may not lose the citizenship of the country of birth.U.S. law does not mention dual nationality or require a person to choose one citizenship or another. Also, a person who is automatically granted another citizenship does not risk losing U.S. citizenship. However, a person who acquires a foreign citizenship by applying for it may lose U.S. citizenship. In order to lose U.S. citizenship, the law requires that the person must apply for the foreign citizenship voluntarily, by free choice, and with the intention to give up U.S. citizenship.

"Intent can be shown by the person's statements or conduct.The U.S. Government recognizes that dual nationality exists but does not encourage it as a matter of policy because of the problems it may cause. Claims of other countries on dual national U.S. citizens may conflict with U.S. law, and dual nationality may limit U.S. Government efforts to assist citizens abroad. The country where a dual national is located generally has a stronger claim to that person's allegiance."

TexExile said...

The key thing to be clear about is that the US government will generally not intervene in relations between a US citizen and another country of which that individual is a citizen. That is pretty much the norm the world over.

So, as a dual US/UK national, I have no basis on which to turn to the US Embassy in London if I end up in trouble with the UK authorities (or to call the British Embassy in Washington if I get in trouble with the US government).

Likewise, US citizens must deal with the US government only as US citizens. Thus, a US citizen should not enter or leave the US on a foreign passport but only on a US one, tax returns must be filed on the basis of US citizenship regardless of residency, etc etc. I would never dream of trying to use my UK nationality to file my tax return as a non-resident alien.

In short, my UK nationality is of no significance to the US government when dealing with me, nor is my US citizenship of any relevance to the British state. I owe each all the obligations that any other citizen would and I enjoy all the same rights.

Matters only really start to get complicated if one starts pressuring governments to recognise (and not just allow) other citizenships. Thus, in the 1990s, Russia's drive to get the CIS republics to allow dual citizenship was largely seen as an attempt to secure geopolitical influence there. Russia was perceived to be trying to exercise its rights in protecting Russian citizens residing in other republics EVEN when those individuals were also local citizens. No sensible state can accept that kind of extra-territorial jurisdiction. But that is not what is at issue here.

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who is British-born and therefore British, married to an Algerian and therefore Algerian, living in Switzerland and therefore Swiss and thinks she deserves French nationality because it is less hassle when crossing the border into France. No thanks.

I believe you should be made to give up your previous nationality when getting a new one, except in very special cases.

I remember that it used to be the rule for kids born in France of foreign parents, and living there. They had double nationality until they reached majority, they were then made to chose which nationality they wanted to keep and lose the other.

And a double national of country A and B would automatically lose his A nationality should he chose to fight or do national service in country B. Sounds like common sense to me.


Mitch Guthman said...

@ Mélanie,

Yes, I generally agree that nationality represents a significant commitment and that when one choses to become a citizen of a country, one owes it undivided loyalty. And I think Patrick Weil’s defense of dual nationality flounders on that very point.

But he also speaks of integration and this again raises the question of national identity (i.e., Frenchness or Britishness, etc.). Can someone born in France ever lose his or her French identity or, conversely, can an immigrant ever become truly French? Does an immigrant’s acceptance of his or her new country’s mores or traditions create a new national identity or is one’s place of birth determinative?

If I would move to Paris and take French citizenship, would that automatically make me “French”? Would it make me more French if I would learn to speak French, start wearing a beret, begin smoking Gauloises and ride my bike to buy a baguette for the evening meal? Or would I always be simply an American who lives in Paris, wears a beret, smokes Gauloises, rides a bike and eats baguettes?

What would Patrick Weil say about a man born in the small village in Brittany where his family has lived for a dozen generations? Would Weil consider such a man to be automatically a Frenchman? What if this man rejected Weil’s four pillars by speaking only Breton (and no French), flying the Drapeau du royaume de France on holidays, and advocating for the restoration of Catholicism as state religion? Is he no longer French despite having been born on French soil and professing loyalty to France (albeit to the Ancien Régime)?

Or, what if this man were to become a Muslim, wear the fez and the jellaba (national garment for men in Morocco) and give up his Gitanes in favor of a hookah? Would he still be just as French? Would he become a Moroccan if he moved there?

By coincidence, I regularly listen to a podcast from Radio Canada about life in French speaking Canada called “C'est la Vie”. So, this week the show was about a retirement home for Vietnamese Quebeckers in the heart of east end Montreal - which is apparently a rabidly francophone neighborhood. For certain reasons, some of the residents are elderly Quebeckers mostly from this same quarter who have chosen to live in this retirement home. The Vietnamese speak mostly Vietnamese (who, I believe, all have Canadian citizenship) and a few speak some French also. But none of the Quebeckers speaks Vietnamese. They get along well, interact without problems but they do not really communicate or mingle. They live separate lives in the same physical space. The Quebeckers are still Quebeckers and live as they always have (except for the fact that they eat more Vietnamese foods and have started to learn Qi-gong) and the Vietnamese are still living, in so far as possible, as they did in Vietnam except that they are an enclave physically present within Canada. They continue to call themselves Vietnamese and the Quebeckers likewise call them Vietnamese. They don't seem to be well integrated into a homogenous society. Yet, they are unquestionably entitled to call themselves Canadians and are probably as well integrated into Quebec society as most English speakers moving there from Vancouver. So, (assuming there is such a thing) where does national identity come from?

I apologize for inflicting my ramblings on everyone but I am trying to organize my thoughts about national identity, integration and multiculturalism and I find writing like this helps. It’s all still a jumble in my mind but I think it’s important to address such questions and not leave them exclusively to the hard right. All other matters aside, it cannot be good for anyone to leave the questions of national identity to the FN, the BNP or the nativists in the Tea Party with their hidden agendas.