GLOBALCIT Review Symposium on Ana Tanasoca, The Ethics of Multiple Citizenship, Cambridge University Press, 2018


Sandra Seubert, Goethe University Frankfurt


Ana Tanasoca’s book addresses normative problems related to the practice and theory of multiple citizenship. She starts from the assumption that multiple citizenship has become more and more accepted in the course of the last decades in which states have come to recognize it as a powerful instrument for promoting integration of their migrant populations. While this process is widely recognised, the author argues that the problems of dual or multiple citizenship arrangements have not received appropriate attention. It is an important merit of the book to take up these problems and thereby contribute to the debate on democratic inclusion and citizenship in a constructive and theory-guided way.

I am sympathetic to many of the arguments and claims the author makes, in particular with regard to the general aim of developing normative principles for more fluid forms of membership regimes under conditions of global migration. Nevertheless, I have certain reservations concerning a) the evaluation of sociological background conditions and underlying empirical assumptions and b) conceptual issues related to theoretical fundamentals of citizenship theory. This also affects the solution Tanasoca proposes: the unbundling of citizenship rights.

Before addressing the first issue let me shortly comment on the actual political context in which this theoretical intervention takes place. We currently witness a political climate in which ius soli as well as double citizenship are again under pressure. For example, in the course of the recent midterm elections campaign US President Trump openly declared his aim to abolish the automatic acquisition of American citizenship on the basis of ius soli. In a less hostile but nevertheless clearly offensive manner, all three candidates to be Merkel’s successor as CDU party chair in Germany announced that they would put a vital element of the citizenship reform of 2000, the so called ‘Options-Pflicht’, on the agenda once again (the duty to decide, at the age of majority, for one citizenship only). We further witness an instrumentalisation of double citizenship as the basis for reintroducing ethnic conceptions of citizenship (e.g. Hungary or Austria/South-Tyrol, granting – or debating the granting of – double citizenship to ethnic kin abroad). In sharp contrast to these conservative and/or right wing agendas Ana Tanasoca criticises multiple citizenship from a decisively progressive point of view and this makes it all the more interesting. In any case, a situation of post-nationalism, in which multiple citizenship was supposed to become more and more accepted, can no longer be taken for granted.

Ad a) Apart from theoretical reasons related to problems of over- and underinclusion (on which, see below), the argument against multiple citizenship is based on an empirical claim: multiple citizenship is a privilege, accessible mostly for those who are already advantaged: a global (financial) elite. Only those who are already privileged by their social status are able to move or able to invest – preconditions for being in a position to acquire a second (or third) citizenship. As a consequence, so she concludes, multiple citizenship increases global injustice rather than contributes to decreasing it. In no way is it the best means to fulfill the cosmopolitan expectation of making boundaries less important. Quite the contrary.

No doubt, as far as ‘investor citizenship’ as one of the sources of dual citizenship for a global elite is concerned, Tanasoca’s theoretical critique is absolutely convincing. Investor citizenship introduces a grammar of ‘market-infused valuation’ which contradicts the normative logic of political relations (Shachar and Hirschl 2014). There is no doubt, as well, that it is empirically plausible to suggest that the tendency to ‘sell’ citizenship or make it more easily available for affluent categories of persons is on the rise. However, the conclusion that mainly a global elite is profiting from double citizenship arrangements seems overgeneralized. It begs the question how this exactly can be known – in light of the fact that it is a general problem to get reliable empirical data on which and how many people hold dual citizenship. A quick glimpse into the German case suggests that official data tend to overestimate because people are not forced to report when they give up their second citizenship, whereas the ‘microcensus’ tends to underestimate because if people are asked they don’t always disclose that they have a second citizenship.[2] What is certain is that dual citizenship arises due to a great variety of conditions: the highest proportion still come from countries whose citizens have come as working migrants (Gast­arbeiter), and – with a certain time delay – a large number will be former refugees. The statement that mainly a global elite is profiting suggests a degree of clarity which hardly exists.

Apart from the empirical issues of reliable data the weighing of arguments for or against multiple citizenship would have been even more convincing with more sociological plasticity of migration societies. Tanasoca frequently stresses – and with good arguments – why, in the case of naturalisation, citizenship, should be a matter of choice rather than the result of default rules. But what is the constellation in which this choice is supposed to take place? Feelings of belonging to the state of origin continue to exist and might even nourish a wish to return; racist prejudices in the country of residence might be felt that hinder the feeling of really being ‘one of them’. Ambiguous experiences might make it hard to decide whether living in a certain place is a temporary or a permanent situation. In short, integration tends to be an enduring, reciprocal and open-ended process, and the decision of taking on another citizenship might not be the end but rather the beginning of a process that takes a lot of time. Despite many problems, dual citizenship might still be the best solution to deal with the ambiguities of this situation.

The social process of becoming a citizen also plays a role in dual citizenship qua birthright. But here citizenship in its ambiguous dimension of belonging also tends to be played down for the sake of rather instrumental reasons. When it comes to the alleged ‘right’ of parents to transfer their citizenship to their children, which Tanasoca criticises, she focuses again on the potential advantages that parents might want to give to their offspring (e.g. p28). But the wish to transmit dimensions of one’s identity, including history and culture and of course also political ideals, transcends such instrumental reasons. Citizenship is not only a legal status but goes along with a particular history, language, (political) culture that parents – even living abroad – might want to communicate to their children as part of showing them ‘where they come from’. None of this suggests that citizenship is a ‘private good’ or that bearers of citizenship are ‘owners’ in any sense. Tanasoca is right to criticise such positions. And, no doubt, recognizing this would not run against Tanasoca’s reform proposal of a ‘renewal’ of citizenship in the sense that one is asked to express an individual choice to retain it (p. 35). Taking the social process of becoming a citizen (and the role of parents in this process ) into account would simply imply more generous transition regulations for children and, under certain conditions, a greater tolerance for dual citizenship.

It is true: multiple citizenship multiplies the ‘boundaries of belonging’ rather than dissolves them (p. 160). But as long as the multiplicity of belonging is a social fact, the ‘second best solution’: multiple citizenship for some, seems preferable to Tanasoca’s ‘first best’: all are citizens of only one state and none are multiple citizens (p. 161). We shouldn’t jump to a conclusion though before taking the conceptual issues of Tanasoca’s reflections and her main interest into account: challenging the traditional understanding of citizenship.

Ad b) Multiple citizenship has come to be recognized as a result of debates about integration. As a reform proposal it was supposed to solve problems of political underinclusion: the fact that a huge part of the resident population has no say in the political decisions of the polity. But the introduction of dual citizenship creates problems of political overinclusion: people who, as emigrants, are no longer legally subjected to the rule of their state of origin still have a say in the authorisation of this rule. The solution that Tanasoca presents is the unbundling of citizenship rights: Instead of making citizenship rights available as a ‘package’, component rights, in particular political rights, should be distributed separately. This would firstly make it possible to integrate migrants politically without naturalising them by granting them political rights only. And it would secondly permit migrants to keep citizenship but not political rights in their state of origin. Consequently, there would be ‘citizenship sine political rights’ and ‘political rights sine citizenship’ (p. 130). Binding the actualization of political rights to residency is an important and very reasonable step. It is justified on the basis of subjection to law as well as ‘social membership’ (the fact that one is socially and economically involved in a society) which entitles a person to also being an author of the laws.[3]

But while citizenship sine political rights might be a plausible solution in the case that a citizen no longer resides in a country, political rights sine citizenship is not. For one reason, it is not clear what granting political rights ‘only’ could mean. If Yasemin Soysal and others are right with their claim that in the postwar era of an international human rights regime access to rights has become increasingly decoupled from citizenship, legal residents have access to civil and even social rights by virtue of living in a particular country. Within the framework of ‘universal personhood’ rendering a differential status has become unjustifiable (Soysal 1994, 142). Political rights are the only rights left that imply a ‘referential proximity’ to citizenship. If political rights are added to the rights that migrants are granted anyway, the package of rights is completed. The conclusion should be that these people are citizens (or what else should they be?). There is also a conceptual reason behind the assumption that whoever holds political rights holds citizenship: when you are granted political rights you are granted the core rights of citizenship – you take part in what is the normative essential of citizenship: political autonomy. If you have access to political rights you are entitled to shape all the other rights (what extend of social, economic and civil rights a polity is willing to establish or uphold) and even to change the ‘rules of the game’, i.e. constituent power. From this perspective, detaching political rights from citizenship doesn’t make sense.[4] Political rights are not only the normative core of citizenship, there is also an inherent interdependence between citizenship rights. The assumption that the main issue is access to rights rather than citizenship abstracts from the question of how rights are socially and politically established and upheld. Talking about ‘distributing rights’ seems somehow misplaced. Rights are not goods that can be ‘distributed’. Underlying are relations of recognition, normative assumptions of reciprocity and fairness, common practices (which in the case of resource-intensive social rights are traditionally called a ‘social contract’).

A crucial insight of the book is that global migration demands new foundations of membership rules. It is equally crucial to point out why access to rights and also citizenship can no longer be regarded as a solely national issue but demands international rules. Following up on Tanasoca’s proposal an important shift would indeed be to bind the actualisation of political rights to residence-criteria. But slightly modifying the proposal, there might nevertheless be good reasons for keeping a second citizenship status, practical as well as moral ones. Hence, dual citizenship should be permitted, but this should be a citizenship sine political rights-status. Political rights would continue to be the core of citizenship, i.e. they could be actualized again in the case of return or settlement in the respective country. But each citizen would cast one vote only. He/she might have dual citizenship but can make use of her political rights in one country only – the country of residence. But doesn’t this ignore the ‘stake’ that citizens of this country still have given their social ties and attachments (Bauböck 2017)? There is not enough space to go into detail here, but I would argue that the ‘subjection to coercion’-argument is overriding: It is problematic if you are casting a vote in a country in which you yourself are not subjected to the laws, i.e. you don’t have to endure the consequences of your vote. With good reason those who are subjected could claim unjustified interference with their political autonomy. This doesn’t mean that you could not try to influence the political discourse in this country but you have to accept that your absence entitles you to voice but not to vote.

A last word regarding the European Union: within this particular kind of polity dual citizenship has become widely accepted.[5] But if a multilevel system has developed so far that a common citizenship status is introduced (as it is the case with EU citizenship) a need for naturalisation in another member state becomes increasingly less important. The reason is that various national citizenships are already integrated under a common roof: a common citizenship regime which is committed to establishing a status of equality which transcends national boundaries. This common roof should make the adaption of another national citizenship dispensable. In fact, this is the only case in which political rights sine (national) citizenship would make sense. But this is dependent on the integrity of the common roof and on a convergence of the different worth that different national citizenships still have – which in the current situation is to a large extend still wishful thinking.