Author: ALICE SCARSI
ITALY granted citizenship to more people than any other country in the European Union in 2016, official figures revealed, less than two years before anti-immigration parties triumphed in the 2018 general election.
A record number of citizenships given by Italy have accounted for a fifth of nearly one million new EU citizens in 2016, latest figures from EU statistics office Eurostat show.
Rome approved 201,600 citizenship requests in 2016, 23,600 more than those granted in 2015.
994,800 people obtained citizenship of a member state of the EU in 2016 up 18 percent from 2015.
Freedom of movement rules that EU citizens have the right to live and work in any of the bloc’s member states.
According to data from Eurostat, the statistical office of the bloc, people from Morocco made up the highest numbers, followed by citizens of Albania, India, Pakistan and Turkey.
101,300 people from Morocco were granted EU citizenship with 89 percent obtaining citizenship from Spain, Italy or France.
67 500 people from Albania obtained EU citizenship with 97 percent acquiring citizenship of Italy or Greece.
More than a half of the new EU passports went to people coming from outside the bloc, including Albania (18.3 percent of the total), Morocco (17.5 percent) and Romania (6.4 percent).
The numbers came a year before a heated discussion across the Italian political spectrum over whether to speed up the process of granting full nationality.
While the centre-left and previously ruling Democratic Party wanted to make easier for children born to foreign parents in Italy to become Italians, right-wing parties led by anti-EU Lega fiercely opposed to the proposal, voting it down in Parliament.
After the vote, in December 2017 Lega leader Matteo Salvino wrote on Facebook: “Citizenship must be earned and wanted, it has to be chosen.
“Someone wanted to use it as a token for electoral purposes, but Lega managed to win.
“Stopping this law is a victory for Italians and for regular immigrants who want to live in a country that is safer and with more dignity.”