Far-right Vox aims to toughen Spanish citizenship laws

Spain's far-right Vox party has proposed a bill in the Spanish Congress that would see citizenship through residency take 15 years instead of ten, a move reportedly targeting North African migrants but which would affect other foreigners.

Far-right Vox aims to toughen Spanish citizenship laws
Leader of the far-right party Vox, Santiago Abascal (2L) want to make it harder for some foreigners to get Spanish nationality. Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP

Far-right party Vox are trying to make the process of acquiring Spanish nationality more difficult. 

In a bill presented to the Congress of Deputies this week, Vox leader Santiago Abascal claimed that the proposals are intended to guard Spanish nationality like a “treasure”,  in response to an increase in nationalised citizens in recent years.

The proposals include increasing the required period of residency from ten to 15 years, banning nationality applications from those with criminal records either in Spain or their country of origin, expect higher language standards proven through official certificates, and ensuring that people give up their other nationalities. 

Spain already doesn’t allow dual nationality in most cases but Vox wants to make it compulsory for citizenship applicants to “present a public document issued by the authorities of their country of origin that certifies the loss of the previous nationality”.

There’s also already the requirement of sitting a language exam but to pass only an A2 is needed, the second lowest level in the DELE Spanish language classification.

In addition, Abascal’s party wants it to be possible to revoke the Spanish nationality of those who have it by birth but not blood (currently not possible according to the constitution) if they commit any number of crimes.

It takes most foreigners in Spain on average twice as long to be eligible for Spanish nationality through residency than in other EU countries (ten years as opposed to five), the application process is long and arduous (it can take up to two years) and for the majority of foreign nationals it means having to theoretically give up their own nationality to become only Spanish. 

However, this ten-year period is reduced to five for refugees, and two years for nationals from the Ibero-American space: Portugal, Andorra, the Philippines, Equatorial Guinea and twelve Latin American nations: Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Bolivia, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Argentina and Colombia.

Overall, Vox’s aim is to ensure the ius sanguinis (“right of blood”) is always greater than the ius solis (“right of land”), so that lineage prevails over the place of birth when obtaining nationality.

Yet Vox’s proposals do not intend to alter the arrangements for Latin Americans and these other nationals of the Ibero-American space, something which has led El País and other Spanish media to suggest the proposed bill is in fact directed at migrants from North Africa, in particular Morocco and Algeria. 

In his speech in Spain’s lower house, Abascal claimed the bill aims to eradicate “fraudulent practices of acquisition of Spanish nationality” and comes in response, he claimed, to an increase in nationalised foreigners in recent years. “Spain is a country with an open immigration policy,” he said. 

According to statistics cited in the bill, since 2017 there has been a 53 percent increase in the number of foreign residents who have acquired Spanish nationality.

The bill will particularly affect those of Moroccan origin, who made up 25.6 percent of the 455,132 foreigners who obtained Spanish nationality by residence between 2016-2020. 60 percent of successful citizenship applications during this period were from EU or Latin American nationals.

If the proposals pass consideration in the Congress, North Africans and other non-EU nationals could face a wait of up to 17 years to obtain nationality, as the naturalisation process often takes two or three years to complete.

Abascal’s language in Congress implicitly suggested as much, and was tinged with racial undertones. The reforms to nationality law would, he said, ensure that Spain doesn’t “give it [nationality] away to just anyone.”

But the employment of such language – subtle or otherwise – is nothing new for Vox. In the Murcia regional Parliament  (the southern region where Vox had its national breakthrough in the November 2019 general election) Vox recently passed legislation to sanction officials who use so-called ‘inclusive language’ that isn’t considered in line with Spanish grammatical norms. 

Supported by the Partido Popular, the sanctions are, according to Vox member Juan José Liarte, necessary because “the language that they insist on calling inclusive should be called manipulative and revolutionary,” but has been described as an attack on LGBTQ+ and minority groups.

This comes as regional governments in Murcia, Andalucía and Madrid hope to legislate against the use of inclusive language in school textbooks from September. 


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Spain’s PP is hot on the heels of PSOE, but will they need Vox to govern?

With the next general election slated for December 2023, recent polling shows Spain's Conservatives gaining ground on the Socialists. Spanish political correspondent Conor Faulkner looks at whether the PP will need far-right Vox to govern, as they now do at a regional level.

Spain's PP is hot on the heels of PSOE, but will they need Vox to govern?

Recent polling from Spain’s CIS (Centre for Sociological Research) shows the incumbent PSOE-led government with a slight, but shrinking, advantage over opposition parties.

On 30.3 percent, Pedro Sánchez’s PSOE would form the government if elections were held today, but that score is unimproved since April and, crucially, the centre-right party Popular Party is gaining, polling at 28.7 percent in May, with the difference between the two now only 1.6 percent.

In fact, PP have been on a steady rise since a turbulent start to 2022 in which former leader Pablo Casado was forced to resign after becoming entangled in intra-party infighting with PP’s regional President in Madrid, Isabel Ayuso.

Casado was replaced by Galician Alberto Núñez Feijóo, considered to be a more traditional centre-right candidate in the mould of Rajoy, who served as President of Galicia between 2009-2022.

PROFILE: Feijóo, steady hand on the tiller for Spain’s opposition party

Whereas Casado was often drawn into scandal and outflanked on cultural issues by far-right Vox, Feijóo is considered a more conventional conservative less prone to populism, and his short tenure as leader has put the PP back on the road to electoral respectability. 

PP were polling around 21 percent in February, amid the public infighting, but since then have steadily risen to the 28.7 percent that they would get if an election were held today, according to recent CIS numbers.

Yet, while many view Feijóo as more centrist than his predecessor, at the regional level far-right Vox have entered into a regional government coalition with PP in Castilla y León.

With important regional elections looming in Andalusia in June, and a general election further down the line in December 2023, it remains unclear if PP would be forced to rely on Vox to overcome PSOE’s thin polling advantage and form a national government.

Crucially, PP’s recent rise has not chipped away at Vox’s polling numbers. According to the CIS, Vox’s polling numbers grew from 14.8 percent in April to 16.6 percent in May, and with centrist Cuidadanos all but electorally wiped out, hovering around 2 or 3 percent all year, and the far-left, junior coalition partner Podemos falling further in the polls, to below 10 percent, the CIS estimate a higher probability of a right-wing PP-Vox (45 percent) than they do a PSOE-Podemos (39.9 percent) government.

With Vox now firmly established as Spain’s third political party and already on the offensive in Castilla y Leon’s regional government – including its Minister of Industry, Commerce and Employment in the assembly recently declaring war against “the virus of communism” – all eyes will be on the upcoming Andalusian regional elections to see if PP is again forced to rely on Vox members to form a government.

Vox’s anti-immigrant, anti-Islam, climate-sceptic populist policy programme is controversial, and the prospect of them as junior coalition partner in a national government would be an abrupt change from a government that wants to introduce menstrual leave and provide financial aid to renters.

Their entry into government at the regional level in Castilla y León was the first time they have officially entered into an executive, at any level, although PP have relied on Vox votes in regional assemblies in both Murcia and Andalusia in the past.

READ ALSO: Spanish cabinet approves paid ‘menstrual leave’

Whereas under Casado’s leadership PP were often forced rightward on cultural issues in an effort to stop Vox shaving away at their core electoral base, under Feijóo the future is less clear. Although Feijóo is considered more centrist than his predecessor, Vox’s steady rise since its emergence into Spanish politics since 2014 worries many on the left and centre, particularly as it has now officially entered into government at the regional level.

Yet, Feijóo seems keen to draw some distinction between the two parties. “The leaders of Vox cannot prove experience in management [of the country] because they do not have it, [and] it seems that they do not like the European Union… the State of Autonomies does not satisfy them either,” he said this week, but did recognise their electoral gains as “obvious.”

“The difference between Vox and the PP,” he continued, “is that a good part of Vox leaders came from the PP and left the common home.”

“We are very interested in those votes that those leaders have because they were votes that the PP had. And, as you will understand, we are here to win,” he added.

What exactly that means for the future political makeup of La Moncloa – whether Feijóo intends to win back those votes for PP or keep them in the ‘common home’ and work with Vox in coalition – remains unclear.

With the Sánchez-led coalition having had almost its entire term swallowed up by the global pandemic, then war in Europe, and now a cost of living and inflation crisis, it seems likely the left could lose the next general election and the Spanish right will return to power.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether that means a PP government or a PP-Vox coalition and the prospect of the far-right in government. All eyes will be on Andalusia in June to see how Feijóo pivots his party as it looks ahead to general elections next year. 

READ ALSO: What a Vox government could mean for foreigners in Spain