Reform, Counter-Reform and the Politics of Citizenship: Local Voting Rights for Third-Country Nationals in Greece

Greece has experienced significant economic immigration during the last 20 years without having been prepared for it. Greek migration management and migrant integration policies have been slow to develop and, despite rapid demographic change, native Greeks have largely retained a predominantly mono-ethnic and mono-religious view of the nation. Indeed, until recently, Greece had one of the most restrictive citizenship regimes in Europe. The situation changed in March 2010 when the socialist government passed a new citizenship law that has facilitated the access to citizenship of both first and second generation migrants. The same law also introduced local voting rights for third-country nationals that reside in Greece legally for 5 years or more. This paper discusses this new law and in particular, the issue of local voting rights in the Greek social and political context. It analyses who spearheaded the drive for change, who opposed the law and the concession of local voting rights and on what grounds. The paper reviews parliamentary debates, policy documents, data from the last local elections and the recent decision of the Greek State Council which annulled the law by deeming it unconstitutional. The analysis places developments in Greece in the context of relevant theoretical debates in the field of citizenship studies reviewing briefly the overall trends on the issue of local political participation of noncitizens in Europe.

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