Books in Dialogue: GLOBALCIT Review Symposium on Yossi Harpaz, Citizenship 2.0 and Jelena Džankić, The Global Market for Investor Citizenship

Citizenship 2.0: A Response to Reviewers

Yossi Harpaz, Tel-Aviv University

I thank the symposium participants for their kind and thoughtful comments on the book. It was a privilege to receive this kind of feedback, which makes research feel like a collaborative project. It was a special pleasure to share the symposium with Jelena Džankić (2019), whose book explores another, closely connected set of changes: the outright sale of citizenship to wealthy foreigners. I expect the relevance of Džankić’s work to increase in coming years, as citizenship-by-investment schemes may become more common. The economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to lead governments to seek out new ways of raising funds, and the global wealthy present a convenient source. A relevant historical precedent is the dramatic increase in tax rates across Europe and North America after 1914, as wars and crises depleted governments’ coffers (Piketty 2014). In the coming years, many governments will be desperate to raise additional revenue, and the sale of passports – in spite of its controversial nature – may be perceived as an easy way of achieving that goal (it may be easier than taxing local citizens).

The commenters have raised numerous interesting questions and made critical observations about the book. In this response essay, I will focus on two concerns that came up in multiple comments. First, to what extent do the book’s findings signal a broader change in the institution of citizenship itself? Second, is there an actual break between “traditional” citizenship – supposedly sacred, exclusive and territorial – and “citizenship 2.0” which is non-exclusive, non-territorial and desacralized?

Concerning the first question, Bauböck pointed out a gap between the empirical data presented in the book – which is focused on the phenomenon of compensatory citizenship – and the title, which suggests a broad and profound change in the institution of citizenship. It may be overselling the argument, he suggests. I will concede that when picking the title, I was looking for a term that would be catchier and more appealing than compensatory citizenship (which is not very intuitive and, as Shaw remarks, potentially ambiguous). Beyond questions of style, however, I argue in fact that there are potentially profound changes in citizenship that follow from the toleration of dual nationality. This argument, which is hinted in the book’s title, is discussed in the book’s conclusion, but only in a summary manner. Here, I will develop it a little further.

I argue that the strategic behavior of states and individuals seen in the cases of compensatory citizenship illustrates broader changes in citizenship that follows from the acceptance of dual citizenship. How do these changes manifest?

The first approach to this question is to consider the demographic significance of dual citizenship. As of now, the number of people who actually hold dual citizenship is relatively small. The vast majority of the world’s population holds just one citizenship. This is the situation of 96 percent of citizens of Western and EU countries and 99 percent of citizens in middle-tier Latin American and Eastern European countries, in a sample that I analyze in the book. However, the numbers of dual citizens seem to be growing. In some countries, including Switzerland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Israel, the percentage of dual citizens in the population surpassed 10 percent.

The ongoing process of immigrant naturalization in European countries is leading to a gradual increase in the number of dual citizens, as very few countries in the continent enforce a ban on dual citizenship. Many in the immigrant second generation are also eligible for dual citizenship. The eligible population is growing rapidly. For example, people with a migrant background (i.e. foreign-born or with at least one foreign-born parent) already form over a quarter of Germany’s population, and are projected to form 35 percent of the population by 2040.[i] A significant proportion of these first- and second-generation immigrants could obtain dual citizenship. Unless there is a sharp and restrictive policy turn, the numbers of persons with dual citizenship are expected to grow in the coming years, and additional European countries will pass the 10 percent mark. Ever larger numbers of people will possess a second citizenship from a country where they do not reside, and which has limited and specific uses for them.

A second way to approach the question concerns the legal and normative aspects of dual citizenship. I argue that some of the most consequential developments in the field of citizenship owe their existence to the increased toleration of dual citizenship. One key development is the rise of citizenship by investment that Jelena Džankić (2019) has explored in her book. The idea of purchasing citizenship from a country where one does not intend to live only makes sense in a world where dual citizenship is permitted. “Passports for cash” schemes would not be very attractive if applicants were required to give up their original passports. This is precisely the reason that relatively few Chinese millionaires apply for citizenship-by-investment, even as Chinese investors dominate the market for investor visas (China does not allow dual citizenship). Most applicants for citizenship by investment hail from Russia and Middle Eastern countries (Surak 2020), which either do not ban dual citizenship or, if they do, do not strictly enforce it. As in the case of compensatory citizenship, non-exclusivity is a precondition for instrumental accumulation.

Another implication of the toleration of dual citizenship is the growing importance of citizen diasporas. Such diasporas – whether created through emigration or co-ethnic ties – have become a powerful resource for many governments, providing geopolitical influence, electoral support, economic investment and symbolic reinforcement. These dynamics play a role in the relations of Russia and Hungary with their neighbors, in Turkey’s attitude towards its citizens in Europe, and in geopolitcal relations between the countries of former Yugoslavia. Yet another implication: arguably, the recent reemergence of citizenship stripping as a response to terrorism was also made possible by the prevalence of dual citizenship. This is because most democratic countries avoid citizenship stripping if it leaves the person with no other nationality.

These different examples show that the shift to non-exclusive citizenship has had a cascade of consequences that impacted many countries across numerous domains. While my book focused on one specific consequence – growing demand in middle-tier countries for top-tier citizenship – it is part of a broader reconfiguration that makes citizenship less territorial, more flexible, more instrumental and less sacred.

This argument also touches on the second question, which was raised by Mantha-Hollands, Pogonyi and Shaw: Is it justified to contrast “traditional” sacred citizenship with a new form of citizenship, or would it be more accurate to argue for continuity, as Džankić (2019) tends to do in her analysis of citizenship by investment?

When answering this question, my point of departure is Christian Joppke’s (2019) observation that states have always been strategic about citizenship, but now individuals are getting the opportunity to be strategic as well. To validate this claim – that individuals are becoming more strategic and instrumental – I will break down instrumentalism into three levels of analysis. They include internal attitudes, observed behavior and laws.

In terms of internal attitudes, I would argue that we simply do not know what they are and how they might have changed. Not much empirical research has been done on the attitudes of the general population regarding citizenship. How closely do people associate citizenship and national identity? Do they perceive it as sacred? Do they instinctively respond to dual citizenship or instrumental behavior as they would respond to an act of defilement (e.g. desecrating a flag or a religious object)? We do not know the answers to these questions, and it would be even more challenging to try and deduce this about the past. This level of analysis remains a black box.

It is much more feasible to evaluate the second level of analysis, observed behavior. My findings show that when people are given the chance to obtain a second nationality, and perceive it as advantageous, they apply for it, even if they do not identify with the granting country. Demand for ancestry-based dual citizenship is correlated with deficits in one’s primary citizenship. For example, Argentineans of Italian origin are almost 30 times more likely to apply for an Italian passport than Americans of the same origin. This is an example of instrumental behavior that can be measured and quantified with statistics. Before dual citizenship was widely permissible, few people had the opportunity to acquire this kind of strategic citizenship, so their behavior was more constrained and there was less room for individual utility maximization. In terms of citizenship behavior, then, people have become more instrumental as a consequence of the growth of new opportunities.

The third level of analysis concerns laws. It is indisputable that citizenship laws have changed since the 1990s in ways that make it easier for individuals to engage in instrumental behavior: hold two citizenships at the same time, hold a passport from a country where one has never lived, ask to become a citizen in a country where one does not speak the language. Arguably, changes in the legal norms governing a certain issue reflect changing public sentiments (even if the connection between laws and norms is not straightforward) (see Joppke 2019). The connection between laws and norms can be evidenced in the study cases. In Mexico, the 1998 law that tolerated dual nationality also seemed to weaken the stigma against seeking American citizenship. In Israel, dual citizenship from Germany was heavily stigmatized (albeit legal) for decades, and only became legitimate when Israelis of Polish, Romanian and Hungarian ancestry also began to seek dual citizenship, thanks to changes in these countries’ laws and their accession to the EU.

In the two domains that are available to empirical analyses – laws and citizenship applications – there is clear evidence of increased instrumentalism, even as we remain agnostic about the content of citizenship as it appears in people’s hearts. This reinforces my claim that strategic attitudes and behaviors in matters of citizenship are to some extent a novel development.

In conclusion, it seems like we are still very much in the process of making sense of the past, present and future of citizenship. These open questions highlight the continued importance of the study of citizenship, which for the past 30 years has been used to shed light on national identity, geopolitics, immigration, globalization, as well as social, political and economic inequality. The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to present yet another set of transformations to citizenship, that will raise new questions and call for further investigations.