Eine Frau geht an einer Weltkarte, die aus Kinderporträts besteht, am Freitag (18.06.2010) im JuniorMuseum in Köln vorbei.

13.6.2014 | Von:
Anna Triandafyllidou

Citizenship and Integration Policies

Greek nationality has been based predominantly on the jus sanguinis principle and, until March 2010, the naturalization procedure was long, costly, and with a very uncertain outcome even for applicants who satisfied the requirements.

Sightseeingbus vor dem Parlament in Athen. Um griechischer Staatsbürger werden zu können muss man Kenntnisse der griechischen Sprache und Kultur nachweisen.Tour bus in front of the Greek parlament in Athens. Naturalization in Greece depends on an assessment of the applicant's knowledge of Greek language and culture. (© picture alliance / Robert Geiss)

A high fee was paid by the applicant (1,500 Euro) and the decision was discretionary based on an assessment not only of the knowledge of language and Greek culture and overall integration into society but also the “national consciousness” of the applicant. Authorities were not required to reply within a specified period of time and did not need to justify a negative decision to the applicant. If an applicant was rejected, s/he could apply again after one year. In practice, naturalization was an option almost exclusively for people of Greek ethnic origin from the former Soviet Republics. Other immigrants, including Albanian citizens of Greek ethnicity (the so-called Voreioipirotes), could apply after ten years of legal residence distributed over a period of the twelve calendar years prior to application. Implementation was, however, particularly restrictive, and citizenship acquisitions were counted in two-digit numbers (see Table 4). In November 2006, a joint decision by the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs facilitated the naturalization procedure for ethnic Greek Albanians. That decision was passed largely without debates as it was congruous with the predominant conception of the Greek nation: Greeks are all people of Greek descent.

Law Reform

When the Socialist party came to power in October 2009, it quickly proceeded to change the citizenship law, in keeping with its electoral promises, to facilitate naturalization for non-Greek origin immigrants. Thus, in March 2010 the Greek Parliament passed a new law (Law 3838/2010) on citizenship and naturalization. This new law lowered the requirement for naturalization from ten to seven years of legal residence in Greece. Immigrants who wished to naturalize, however, first had to obtain the EU long-term resident status (for which they can apply after five years of legal residence). In addition, they had to prove knowledge of the Greek language and culture. In contrast to the previous law, the authorities were required to reply to applicants within a time frame of six months, and had to justify their decision on whether the applicant was granted citizenship or not.

Table 4: Acquisition of Greek Citizenship (2000-2012)
Source: Ministry of Interior, 2011 data provided upon author’s request. For 2010-2012 data received upon request by the Greek Parliament as provided by the vice Minister of Interior, H. Athanasopoulos, in response to a parliamentary question of MPs I. Dimaras and G. Abramidis on 14 March 2013.

Concerning second generation immigrants, the 2010 law provided for children born in Greece of foreign parents to become Greek citizens through a simple declaration of their parents, provided that both parents had been living in Greece legally for at least five years. Even if one of the parents did not fulfill this requirement, they could still make the declaration and the child could obtain Greek citizenship as soon as the second parent satisfied the requirement.

Children who were born abroad of foreign parents but who lived in Greece and had completed at least six years of schooling in the country could also be naturalized with a simple declaration by their parents provided that both parents had been living in Greece legally for at least five years. Citizenship acquisition of migrant children could also make their parents’ lives easier: as parents of a Greek citizen, they were entitled to a five-year renewable permit, regardless of their employment situation, as this was in the best interest of the child who is a Greek citizen.

Voting Rights for foreign nationals

In addition to reforming the citizenship and naturalization rules, Law 3838/2010 had introduced full local voting rights for foreign residents who had lived legally in Greece for at least five years. However, immigrants who wished to register to vote also had to satisfy one of the following conditions: be in possession of a long-term EU resident status or a national residence permit of ten years or indefinite duration, be parents of a Greek citizen, married to a Greek or EU citizen, or hold a special identity card issued to ethnic Greeks from Albania.

Annulment of the reform

In February 2013, the Council of State declared the above provisions of Law 3838/2010 to be unconstitutional and the Ministry of the Interior announced that the law would be replaced with legislation that would require migrants to show a ‘genuine bond’ with Greece and prove they had assimilated into Greek culture. Currently, the previous citizenship law has gone back into force and naturalization applications under the 2010 law have been cancelled.

This text is part of the country profile "Greece".

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