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New proposals try to overcome impasse on reforming citizenship law in Italy

The Committee of Institutional Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies started on 3 October 2019 an analysis of three new proposals to change the citizenship law. This is not the first time that the Italian Parliament was expected to decide on this issue, but previous efforts have not yielded substantial results.

According to Italian law, people born to non-citizen parents can acquire citizenship if they meet the following requirements: birth in Italy, uninterrupted residence until turning eighteen and submitting a statement of intent within one year of their 18th birthday.

Over the past two decades, several bills have aimed at reducing the years of residence required or narrowing the gap between the children of migrants and their Italian peers, but ultimately no legal reform was adopted. The current debate turns around two principles—ius culturae and ius soli- temperato.

The concept of ius culturae entered the public agenda in 2012 when the Minister of Cooperation and Integration at the time, Andrea Riccardi, endorsed an approach based on culture, arguing that this was a solution to overcome the impasse around a strict interpretation of ius sanguinis. In living and going to school in Italy, children with migrant backgrounds acquire the same cultural code as their native-born peers, and this could serve as the basis for citizenship acquisition.

In the current Parliament, members from different political parties—Laura Boldrini, Democratic Party deputy and former president of the Chamber of Deputies; Renata Polverini, Forza Italia deputy; and Matteo Orfini, Democratic party deputy—have signed proposals to reopen the debate on citizenship. They all support the principle of ius culturae for children.

Boldrini’s bill would allow children under 10 years of age to become Italian citizens if they have been living in Italy for five years and have completed at least one scholastic cycle. Minors who arrived in Italy under 10 years of age, are resident in Italy until the age of eighteen and submit their statement of intent by the day on which they turn 19 would also be eligible for citizenship.

Whereas the principle of ius culturae is receiving broad political backing, the proposal of ius soli-temperato is trickier. For example, both Orfini and Boldrini’s proposals allow children to get citizenship at birth if at least one of their parents had been living legally in Italy at the time. But their proposals differ substantially on the number of years of residence required. Boldrini would require one year, while Orfini would require five years or having an EU residence permit. And there is no provision for ius soli-temperato in Polverini’s bill.

Over the last decade, several campaigns have pushed for change, with the goal of allowing children to acquire Italian citizenship before they turn 18 or to make naturalisation easier.  The second generation has become highly active in lobbying for changing the citizenship law.