1) Citizenship test – Ines Michalowski

by Giuseppe Terranova - 2011.10.20
1) Citizenship test – Ines Michalowski
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The recent introduction of citizenship tests for immigrants in many European countries aroused much discussion and controversy. What is it about? Can a simple questionnaire really determine if an immigrant is suitable for citizenship?  And, above all, are we talking about illiberal means to achieve a liberal aim?

Lost in a dark wood, full of doubts and uncertainty, where a feeling of confusion prevails, Ines Michalowski will be our Virgil with an interview which we will publish in two parts from today on. Michalowski is a researcher at the Social Science Research Center Berlin and she dedicated her academic activity to all the problems related to citizenship in the European countries, and not only. She published several articles, essays and volumes on this topic.






1) How many European countries have enforced citizenship tests?

Since the most recent data from the Migrant Integration Policy Index (MIPEX) is not published yet, the only data available to answer this question stems from the MIPEX 2006. Slightly updated and corrected for the information on France and the UK°, this MIPEX data shows that in the EU 25 a small minority of 11 countries disposed of a citizenship test in 2006. Among these countries, most have opted for a written test (UK, Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Lithunia) while Spain, Greece and Hungary have only introduced an oral citizenship test. The new 2010 version of the MIPEX will comprise data for the EU 27 and also show whether additional countries have introduced such tests.

2) What are the differences and commonalities among the citizenship tests that exist in the European Union?

Citizenship tests in Europe can be compared on a number of aspects. Generally speaking one can differentiate at least two important aspects: the format and the content. The format of citizenship tests varies widely throughout the European Union. Besides the fact that some countries have introduced oral citizenship tests while others have opted for written ones, the most striking difference probably is whether the test questions (and even the (right) answers) have been published or not. Among the latter figure the Netherlands and the UK but here again there are differences since the UK published a set of 97 sample questions which can be used for training purposes while the Netherlands offers no possibility to prepare for the test.

Among the countries that have published their test questions, these vary for example with regard to the total number of questions (90 federal questions in Austria, 300 federal questions in Germany), the number of questions asked during the test (18 in the Austrian case, 33 in the German test), time given to answer them (2 hours in Austria versus one hour in Germany), and the number of right answers needed (9 or 12 in Austria, 17 in Germany). In addition, another important feature of these tests are the costs (for example 25 € in Germany versus 230 € in the Netherlands).

In addition to the format these tests also vary with regard to their content. A content comparison of the Austrian, the German, the British, the Dutch and the US-American test showed a striking similarity between the US-American, the Austrian and the German citizenship test since all three place a strong emphasis on subjects such as politics, democracy, history and the nation state. On the other hand, the Dutch and the British citizenship test place a stronger focus on practical issues such as the welfare state (e.g. the functioning of the health system in the Dutch case) or the provision of public goods and services. Another difference between the US-American, the German, Austria and British citizenship test on the one hand and the Dutch test on the other is that the latter comprises a certain number of questions that relate to social norms while the other four tests either totally refrain from asking questions that are easily related to moral issues (e.g. education of children, marriage and family) or only refer to these issues if they are regulated by law.

° Other than indicated by MIPEX, the UK does not have an “oral” citizenship test but a test that is taken via computer, requiring written language skills. France is scored as having an “oral citizenship test” even though, as of January 2010, there is no ministerial instruction that actually puts such a citizenship test into place. The main existence of the French test is on paper (information confirmed by the Sous-Direction de l'accès à la nanwationalité française in Rezé).
























Source: www.west-info.eu ; data processing MIPEX 2006.
°° As Ines Michalowski pointed out, in spite of what the MIPEX 2006 index affirms, citizenship tests in France are still not in force today.
°°° As Ines Michalowski pointed out, in spite of what the MIPEX 2006 index affirms, The United Kingdom use a computer citizenship test which entails the knowledge of written language but not of oral language.

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