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France

France to make it easier to become French

Latest update : 2012-10-18

France’s Interior Minister Manuel Valls (photo) announced on Thursday that the government will make it easier for foreigners to become French citizens. Valls argued, “French nationality should not be sold-off or reserved for the elite.”

France is to take steps to make it easier for foreign citizens living in the country to gain French nationality, Interior Minister Manuel Valls announced on Thursday.

As one of a number of measures aimed at increasing the number of naturalised French citizens, the Socialist government is to scrap plans to make would-be citizens pass a multiple-choice history and culture test.

“You don’t become French by answering multiple choice questions,” said Valls, who is a naturalised French citizen of Spanish origin.

The controversial multiple-choice test was the brainchild of the previous right-wing government and was designed to help tackle the problem of some immigrants failing to adapt to French life. The exam would have been introduced in July this year if former president Nicolas Sarkozy had been re-elected.

But the interior minister’s decision on Thursday means it will never see the light of day.

Employment equals citizenship?

The government will also lift a restriction that requires new citizens to have the notoriously hard to come by French permanent employment contract (with which it is very difficult for an employer to fire an employee) before they can obtain French nationality; thus those with temporary job contracts will now be able to apply.

“I reject the idea that only those with permanent employment contracts can become French,” the interior minister - who is nicknamed the "Sarkozy of the left" - added.

In 2010, 120,000 people became naturalized French citizens but numbers earning citizenship fell by more than 30 percent in 2011/12. Valls wants to reverse that trend.

“French nationality should not be sold-off or reserved for the elite. It is what drives our sense of belonging to France,” Valls added.

Valls, was however insistent that relatively tough requirements over an applicants French language ability will remain in place.

The minister also stressed that candidates must support the core values of the French republic, including the beliefs in secularity and solidarity as well as liberty, egality and fraternity.

“Naturalisation has to remain the natural conclusion of a successful integration,” he said.

Some immigrant rights groups want the French government to go further.

"Naturalisation of citizens is not the only way we can help integration in France," Sarah Belaïsch from the organisation Cimade told FRANCE 24. "It is also essential to provide all foreigners with some stability and this can be done by giving them all the right to remain in France legally."

(FRANCE24 with wires)

Date created : 2012-10-18

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