The number of people who acquired citizenship in one of the European Union Member States rose to 810,000 in 2010, a 4% increase on the previous year, according to the latest statistics.
This is the first time that the total number of acquisitions in the EU exceeds 0.8 million and was essentially due to an increase in citizenships granted by Spain, up 44,000 or 55% compared with 2009.
Sizeable increases were also recorded in Germany, up 8,500 or 9%, in France which saw and increase of 7,500 or 5% and Italy up 6,500 or 11%. On the other hand, the largest decreases occurred in the UK which experienced a fall of 8 800 or 4%, and Bulgaria which was down 8,300 or 90%.
‘It should be noted that the year to year fluctuations in the number of acquisitions in a country depend not only on reforms of the citizenship laws and procedures, but also on past migration trends, which modify the stock of foreigners eligible to apply for citizenship,’ the EU data report says.
In relative terms, the highest increases with respect to 2009, apart from Spain, were recorded in Ireland, up 41%, Finland up 27% and Poland up 17%). For the first time, the number of persons acquiring citizenship was higher in Spain than in Germany. In terms of total acquisitions, in 2010 Spain at 124,000 was the third country in the EU after the UK at 195,000 and France at 143,000.
The largest groups of foreigners who acquired citizenship in the EU were Moroccans with 67,000, mostly French, and Turks with 50 000, mostly German citizenship.
Other significant groups were people who previously held the citizenship of Ecuador, India, Colombia or Pakistan and the vast majority of new citizens, almost nine out of 10, were previously third country nationals, that is citizens of a country outside the EU.
The report also points out that naturalisation rate, or rate of acquisition of citizenship, is the conventional indicator used to evaluate the effect of national citizenship policies on the stock of resident foreigners. It is computed as the ratio between the total acquisitions that occur within a given calendar year and the stock of resident foreigners at the beginning of the year.
Its common interpretation as ‘share of foreigners who become nationals in a given year’ is complicated by the fact that not all foreigners are eligible to acquire citizenship, since in most cases a minimum length of stay in the country is required.
As in 2009, the highest naturalisation rate in 2010 in the EU was recorded in Portugal with 5.6 acquisitions per hundred foreign residents, slightly lower than the 5.8 of 2009, followed by Poland with five, Sweden with 4.9 and the UK with 4.6.
‘Two aspects should be noted. First of all, despite the fact that theoretically the naturalisation rate is a rather volatile indicator, its distribution in the EU has remained quite stable between 2009 and 2010. With the exception of Slovenia, all Member States which were above or below the EU average in 2009 remained above or below that average in 2010,’ the report says.
‘Secondly, among the top five EU Member States in terms of total citizenships granted, only the UK and France rank above the EU average in terms of naturalisation rate, while Germany, Spain and Italy rank below,’ it adds.
Half of these new citizens were aged 32 years or less, with a slight predominance of women (52.8%) over men (47.2%). The share of women was highest in Finland with 59.9%, then Lithuania with 59.7% and Cyprus with 58.3%. The share of men was highest in Bulgaria at 58.9%, in Slovenia 54.3% and Portugal 52.6%.
Concerning the distribution by age, at EU level the median age of persons granted citizenship was 31.9 years, ranging from 15.8 years in Estonia to 39.7 years in Lithuania.