Record year for EU countries granting citizenship to foreigners

Countries in the EU have been granting citizenship to foreigners in record numbers, new figures show.

Record year for EU countries granting citizenship to foreigners
Photo by Iroz Gaizka / AFP

In total 827,300 people acquired citizenship in EU member states in 2021, an increase of around 98,300 (14 per cent) over 2020, when the number was 729,000, according to the latest data published by the EU statistical office Eurostat. 

Although the figures are likely to see a ‘pandemic effect’ compared to 2020 when many countries shut down or severely restricted administrative processes during the lockdowns, the figures also show a rise compared to 2019. In that year 706,400 people were granted citizenship in EU countries. 

Around the EU countries, the administrative process of getting citizenship takes an average of two years, so most of the people getting their citizenship in 2021 would have applied for it in previous years. 

Most new citizenships were granted by Spain (144,800, or 17 per cent of the EU total) in 2021, France and Germany (around 130,000 or 16 per cent each), Italy (121,500, 15 per cent) and Sweden (89,400, 11 per cent).

Largest growth in France

The largest increase in absolute terms was recorded in France (+43,900 compared to 2020), followed by Germany (+18,800), Spain (+17,700), Sweden (+9,200) and Austria (+7,200). 

In 10 countries, however, the number decreased, with the largest decline in Italy (-10,300), Portugal (-7,600) and Greece (-3,200). 

Among new citizens, the proportion of women was slightly higher than men (50.2 over 49.8 per cent), especially for the age groups above 30. The median age of persons acquiring citizenship in the EU was 32. 

About of quarter, 25 per cent, were children between 0 and 14 years old, with the highest proportions in Slovenia (35 per cent), Latvia (34 per cent) and France (33 per cent), according to the data, which Eurostat collects from national statistical offices.

Highest naturalisation rate in Sweden

In relation to the total population, the highest number of citizenships were granted by Sweden (8.6 per thousand persons), followed by Luxembourg (7.8) and the Netherlands (3.6).

Sweden also topped EU countries for naturalisation rate, the proportion of persons who acquire citizenship in relation to all non-national residents.

Sweden granted 10 citizenships per 100 foreign residents in 2021, followed by the Netherlands (5.4), Romania (4.6), Portugal (3.7) and Belgium and Spain (both 2.7). The lowest naturalisation rate was in the Baltic states, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all below 0.5, while the EU average was 2.2.

Non-EU citizens most likely to naturalise

Similar to the previous year, the vast majority of people who obtained citizenship of an EU member state were from non-EU countries: 706,900, or 85 per cent of the total. 

The largest group was from Morocco (86,200 people, who acquired citizenship mostly in Spain or France), followed by Syrian (83,500, mostly in Sweden and the Netherlands), and Albanians (32,300, mostly in Italy). Then came Romanians (mostly in Italy and Germany), and Turks (Germany and France). 

Among new EU citizens there were also 5,370 US nationals (compared to 3,425 in 2020), with the largest number in Austria, Norway, France, Sweden and Italy.

Naturalisation of British citizens 

The Brexit vote in 2016 led to a big increase in citizenship applications among Brits who lived in the EU, as they faced the prospect of losing their rights to EU freedom of movement.

According to Professor Maarten Vink, Chair in Citizenship Studies at the European University Institute in Italy, since 2016, more than 100,000 Brits have acquired citizenship in EU countries.

The peak for citizenship granted to Brits was in 2019, and since then numbers have seen a decrease. Anecdotally, many of the applications after 2016 were from Brits who had been resident in an EU country for many years, so could have naturalised previously.

Some 10,600 Britons acquired citizenship in EU countries in 2021, ranking 19th among other nationalities. The number decreased by 5,400, or 34 per cent, over 2020. 

The largest groups were recorded in Germany (2,345), Austria (1,190), Ireland (1,186), Sweden (1,131), Belgium (1,010), Denmark (546). Only 163 were recorded in France, 343 in Spain and 453 in Italy. UK national acquiring citizenship in Norway were 1,578 and in Switzerland 855.

The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News.

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‘Dexit’ would cost Germany 690 billion euros and millions of jobs: economists

According to the German Economic Institute (IW), Germany's exit from the EU – the so-called Dexit – would cost millions of jobs and significantly reduce the country's prosperity.

'Dexit' would cost Germany 690 billion euros and millions of jobs: economists

In a study presented by the Cologne-based institute on Sunday, the authors showed that a Dexit would cause real GDP to drop by 5.6 percent after just five years. This means that Germany would lose 690 billion euros in value creation during this time.

In addition, Germany as an export nation is dependent on trade with other countries, especially with other EU countries, warned the authors. Companies and consumers in Germany would therefore feel the consequences “clearly” and around 2.5 million jobs would be lost.

The study is based on the consequences of Britain’s exit from the EU, such as the loss of trade agreements and European workers.

Taken together, the losses in economic output in Germany in the event of a Dexit would be similar to those seen during Covid-19 and the energy cost crisis in the period from 2020 to 2023, the authors warned.

Brexit is therefore “not an undertaking worth imitating,” warned IW managing director Hubertus Bardt. Rather, Brexit is a “warning for other member states not to carelessly abandon economic integration.”

Leader of the far-right AfD party Alice Weidel described Great Britain’s exit from the European Union at the beginning of the year as a “model for Germany.”

In an interview published in the Financial Times, Weidel outlined her party’s approach in the event her party came to power: First, the AfD would try to resolve its “democratic deficit” by reforming the EU. If this was not successful, a referendum would be called on whether Germany should remain in the EU.