There are more people acquiring citizenship of European Union countries than ever before with the UK, France and Germany leading the surge, according to a new report.
EU member states granted a record 776,000 citizenships in 2009, an increase of 11% on the previous year. This follows two years of decline in 2007 and 2008.
The top three countries recorded 56% of the EU total while Luxembourg was the country with the highest number of acquisitions per inhabitant in the EU, followed by Cyprus, the UK and Sweden.
The EU report also shows that relatively to the size of the resident foreign population the country at the top was Portugal, followed by Sweden, the UK and Poland and Moroccans and Turks are the largest groups among those who became citizens of an EU member state.
In all member states except Luxembourg and Hungary, the majority of those who acquired citizenship were previously non-EU citizens.
The UK granted 26% of all new citizenships in the EU but the report says that the increase is largely due to the relatively low number of acquisitions recorded in 2008, which was a consequence of changes in staff allocation within the national responsible authority.
France recorded 18% and Germany 12%. These three countries have been the top three for the last 10 years.
In relative terms Italy and Romania also granted increased numbers of citizenships, up 40% and 68% respectively and the number of persons acquiring Luxembourg citizenship in 2009 was 2.3 times higher than that recorded in the previous year.
Substantial reductions of the number of acquisitions with respect to previous year were recorded in Finland, down 49%, Slovakia was down 45%, and Lithuania down 35%. Reductions of 20% or less also occurred in Hungary, Latvia, Austria and Estonia. In none of these countries, however, was the reduction in absolute terms large enough to have a sizeable impact on the EU total.
The country with the highest naturalisation rate in 2009 was Portugal with 5.8 acquisitions per hundred foreign residents, followed by Sweden at 5.3 and the UK at 4.8. On the other hand, Luxembourg, due to the large share of foreign residents, above 43% on 01 January 2009, has a naturalisation rate below the EU average, despite being the first EU country in terms of acquisitions per inhabitant.
Compared with 2008, the number of Moroccans acquiring citizenship in the EU fell by 6%, while the number of Turks rose by 5%. The majority of Moroccans acquired citizenship in France, 43%, Italy 15%, Belgium 13% and Spain 11%. In contrast, Turks mainly acquired citizenship in Germany, 48%, France 18%, and the UK 14%.
The median age of those being granted citizenship in the EU was slightly less than 32 years. For the majority of member states the median age of new citizens is included in the range between 25 and 35 years. The most notable exceptions are Estonia, for which half of the new citizens were younger than 11.6 years, and Lithuania, for which half of the new citizens were older than 40.9 years.
There was a slight predominance of women who made up 52.5% of new citizens at an EU level. This was true for the majority of member states. However, men exceeded women in Bulgaria, Portugal and Romania. The highest proportion of men was recorded for Bulgaria at 63.6%, and the highest proportion of women was in the Czech Republic at 59.4%.