Why Ireland and the EU Abolished Citizenship by Birth

Citizenship by birth, also known as jus soli or right of soil, is a legal principle that grants citizenship to anyone born in a certain territory, regardless of their parents’ nationality or immigration status. This principle was once widely adopted by many countries around the world, especially in the Americas, as a way of promoting integration, diversity, and human rights.

However, in recent decades, some countries have decided to restrict or abolish citizenship by birth, citing concerns over immigration, security, and identity. One of the most notable examples is Ireland, which was the only country in the European Union (EU) to grant unconditional citizenship by birth until 2005. In that year, the Irish people voted to change the constitutional right to citizenship in the 27th Amendment to the Irish Constitution. This ended the automatic entitlement to citizenship by birth to everyone born in Ireland, and introduced new conditions based on the parents’ citizenship or residence status.

The main reason behind this change was the perceived abuse of the citizenship by birth policy by some foreign nationals, who came to Ireland to give birth and secure Irish and EU citizenship for their children. This phenomenon was dubbed as “birth tourism” or “anchor babies” by some media and politicians, who claimed that it posed a threat to the Irish welfare system, national security, and cultural identity. Some also argued that the policy was unfair to other immigrants who had to go through a lengthy and costly naturalisation process to become Irish citizens.

The change in the Irish citizenship law was also influenced by the broader context of the EU, which has been facing increasing challenges from migration, terrorism, and populism. The EU, as a supranational entity, does not have a common citizenship policy, but rather allows each member state to determine its own rules and criteria for granting citizenship. However, since all EU citizens enjoy free movement and equal rights within the EU, the citizenship policies of one member state can have implications for the others. For instance, if a person obtains citizenship by birth in one member state, they can also travel, work, and settle in any other member state, without any restrictions or obligations.

This situation has created some tensions and controversies among the EU member states, especially those that have more restrictive or selective citizenship policies, such as Germany, France, and the Netherlands. These countries have expressed concerns over the potential influx of people who acquire citizenship by birth in other member states, such as Ireland, Italy, or Spain, and then move to their territories to access better opportunities and benefits. They have also raised questions over the loyalty and integration of these people, who may have multiple or dual citizenships, and may not share the same values and identity as the native-born citizens.

In response to these challenges, the EU has tried to harmonise and coordinate the citizenship policies of its member states, by issuing guidelines, recommendations, and best practices. However, these efforts have been largely voluntary and non-binding, as the EU respects the sovereignty and diversity of its member states in this matter. Therefore, the EU has not abolished citizenship by birth as a whole, but rather left it to the discretion of each member state to decide whether to grant it or not, and under what conditions.

In conclusion, Ireland and the EU abolished citizenship by birth for different but related reasons. Ireland did so to prevent the abuse of its citizenship policy by some foreign nationals, and to align its policy with the majority of the EU member states. The EU did so to respect the sovereignty and diversity of its member states, and to avoid creating conflicts and inequalities among them. However, both Ireland and the EU still recognise and value the importance of citizenship by birth as a way of fostering integration, diversity, and human rights, and therefore have not completely eliminated it, but rather modified it to suit their changing needs and circumstances.

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