11,000 Minors to Receive Italian Honorary Citizenship In Historic Municipal Shift

By Shreeya Khanna and Francesco Morelli

February 23, 2022. Bologna has started paving the way towards an Italian Ius Soli. For the first time ever in the history of the country, a municipality will award honorary citizenship to 11 thousand minors with foreign parents. In reality, though, this changes nothing on the legal level.

Ius soli is a right to citizenship on the basis of birth within a state’s borders. As as of now, Italian law maintains that citizenship can only be passed down through Ius Sanguinei, i.e. through blood-ties.

With a press statement, Bologna’s mayor, Matteo Lepore announced this new, historic addition to the municipal statute on February 22nd – after a council vote which came out overwhelmingly in favor of the proposition.

But to some this change in the statute is not enough. “We do not want ‘consolation prizes’, we want rights. If a right is only awarded to a fraction of the people, then it remains a privilege,” says Marwa Mahmoud. She is an Italian municipal Council member in Reggio Emilia who has Egyptian roots. Honorary citizenship does not provide people with the same rights as legal Italian citizenship does, which is what Mahmoud wants. For that, Italy would have to implement Ius Soli.

“It’s a symbolical act, but it does not change anything about a person’s legal documents”, says Mahmoud about the awarding of honorary citizenship in Bologna. She says she is not satisfied by the provision. According to her, “demonstrative stunts” which have no actual effect on the law, only have a reason to exist if they prompt a law-making process.

Outside of Bologna, the opposition to the implementation of the Ius Soli still stands strong. Majoritarian right-wing parties such as Lega or Fratelli d’Italia are adamant about “defending a national identity”, as Fratelli d’Italia’s leader Giorgia Meloni remarked on different occasions while speaking to the press.

As the Italian Superior Institute of Health reports, Italy currently registers over 5 million foreign residents. Of those, many are the children of immigrants who are now part of every layer of society: from sports, to the art world, to academia and politics, Mahmoud explains.

Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Bologna, Stefano Cavazza, agrees with Mahmood that this statute revision will not lead to actual change. “This is a political move”, he says, “but there is no practical function with it”. From a personal standpoint, Cavazza supports the purposes of a Ius Soli law draft, but he is not sure about the efficacy of measures like the one adopted in Bologna.

He, however, does hope that this push, coming from an important municipality, will facilitate getting the Italian parliament in motion towards implementing the Ius Soli. “I think it’s unacceptable that the process to become an Italian citizen [for someone who has been raised in Italy] has to be so complex and lengthy,” Cavazza declares.

Only time will tell what the situation regarding the Italian right to citizenship will look like in a few years. In professor Cevazza’s words: “Sometimes these good-spirited initiatives come up quickly and they die down right after the election. Let’s hope this is not the case”.

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