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French Interior Min. Accused Of 'Clearance Sale' Naturalization

The proposals by Interior Minister Manuel Valls to reverse the previous government's immigration policy are drawing fire.
By Amiel Ungr
First Publish: 10/19/2012, 12:39 PM

Manuel Valls
Manuel Valls
Reuters

The French Minister of the Interior ,Manuel Valls, who himself is a native of Spain and came to France at the age of 20, has aroused the ire of the opposition by relaxing demands for naturalization of immigrants. He wants to restore France's reputation as a welcoming country in terms of immigration.

Under the previous center-right government, naturalization policy was tightened, and the number of naturalizations fell by 30% between 2010 and 2011 and by 45% between 2011 and 2012.

As part of a more flexible policy, the criteria of a permanent work contract will no longer constitute the main criterion. The proposed multiple-choice examination on French culture and history (definitely not the most forbidding exam) will be scrapped even before it was put into practice. It will be necessary to pledge allegiance to the Republican values of liberty, equality and fraternity - as well as secularism and solidarity. Five years of schooling in France and 10 years of residency will qualify. As is the practice of other countries who want to attract talented immigrants, doctors and graduates of prestige universities will be fast-tracked.

The proposal has been attacked by the opposition. Eric Ciotti of the UMP claims that "French nationality has to be deserved… The desire to sell it at clearance prices is totally irresponsible." Guillaume Larrive, a National Assembly deputy for the UMP and party immigration specialist, claimed that the Minister of Interior had got things the wrong way around by favoring naturalization in order to encourage integration. As could be expected, National Front leader Marine Le Pen compared the plan to selling French nationality as if it was about buying tickets on the Metro.

France used to get most of its immigrants from poor countries in Europe such as Spain, Portugal and Eastern Europe, and those immigrants quickly became assimilated. Now it gets most of its immigrants from third world countries and, particularly, from the Francophone countries of Africa. This pattern will be reinforced, given the lack of job opportunities and the increased tax burden that France is imposing on the economically successful.