In total 827,300 people acquired citizenship in EU member states in 2021, an increase of around 98,300 (14 per cent) over 2020, when the number was 729,000, according to the latest data published by the EU statistical office Eurostat.
Although the figures are likely to see a ‘pandemic effect’ compared to 2020 when many countries shut down or severely restricted administrative processes during the lockdowns, the figures also show a rise compared to 2019. In that year 706,400 people were granted citizenship in EU countries.
Around the EU countries, the administrative process of getting citizenship takes an average of two years, so most of the people getting their citizenship in 2021 would have applied for it in previous years.
Most new citizenships were granted by Spain (144,800, or 17 per cent of the EU total) in 2021, France and Germany (around 130,000 or 16 per cent each), Italy (121,500, 15 per cent) and Sweden (89,400, 11 per cent).
Largest growth in France
The largest increase in absolute terms was recorded in France (+43,900 compared to 2020), followed by Germany (+18,800), Spain (+17,700), Sweden (+9,200) and Austria (+7,200).
In 10 countries, however, the number decreased, with the largest decline in Italy (-10,300), Portugal (-7,600) and Greece (-3,200).
Among new citizens, the proportion of women was slightly higher than men (50.2 over 49.8 per cent), especially for the age groups above 30. The median age of persons acquiring citizenship in the EU was 32.
About of quarter, 25 per cent, were children between 0 and 14 years old, with the highest proportions in Slovenia (35 per cent), Latvia (34 per cent) and France (33 per cent), according to the data, which Eurostat collects from national statistical offices.
Highest naturalisation rate in Sweden
In relation to the total population, the highest number of citizenships were granted by Sweden (8.6 per thousand persons), followed by Luxembourg (7.8) and the Netherlands (3.6).
Sweden also topped EU countries for naturalisation rate, the proportion of persons who acquire citizenship in relation to all non-national residents.
Sweden granted 10 citizenships per 100 foreign residents in 2021, followed by the Netherlands (5.4), Romania (4.6), Portugal (3.7) and Belgium and Spain (both 2.7). The lowest naturalisation rate was in the Baltic states, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all below 0.5, while the EU average was 2.2.
Non-EU citizens most likely to naturalise
Similar to the previous year, the vast majority of people who obtained citizenship of an EU member state were from non-EU countries: 706,900, or 85 per cent of the total.
The largest group was from Morocco (86,200 people, who acquired citizenship mostly in Spain or France), followed by Syrian (83,500, mostly in Sweden and the Netherlands), and Albanians (32,300, mostly in Italy). Then came Romanians (mostly in Italy and Germany), and Turks (Germany and France).
Among new EU citizens there were also 5,370 US nationals (compared to 3,425 in 2020), with the largest number in Austria, Norway, France, Sweden and Italy.
Naturalisation of British citizens
The Brexit vote in 2016 led to a big increase in citizenship applications among Brits who lived in the EU, as they faced the prospect of losing their rights to EU freedom of movement.
According to Professor Maarten Vink, Chair in Citizenship Studies at the European University Institute in Italy, since 2016, more than 100,000 Brits have acquired citizenship in EU countries.
The peak for citizenship granted to Brits was in 2019, and since then numbers have seen a decrease. Anecdotally, many of the applications after 2016 were from Brits who had been resident in an EU country for many years, so could have naturalised previously.
Some 10,600 Britons acquired citizenship in EU countries in 2021, ranking 19th among other nationalities. The number decreased by 5,400, or 34 per cent, over 2020.
See here a recent paper by @daniel__auer and Daniel Tetlow using these data (up to 2019) for a more systematic analysis of post-Brexit referendum naturalisations (and migration decisions): https://t.co/5V38jBMczu
— Maarten Vink (@maartenpvink) March 1, 2023
The largest groups were recorded in Germany (2,345), Austria (1,190), Ireland (1,186), Sweden (1,131), Belgium (1,010), Denmark (546). Only 163 were recorded in France, 343 in Spain and 453 in Italy. UK national acquiring citizenship in Norway were 1,578 and in Switzerland 855.
The article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News.