Lorenzo & his humble friends

The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool

Tag: citizenship

Who cares?

On June 29 I presented my Ph.D. thesis in 180 seconds as part of our nccr – on the move event entitled The Migratory Realities of Switzerland in 180 Seconds.

You can also watch the other presentations following this link on our nccr – on the move website.

Territorial politics

I am very pleased to be among the contributors to the new Handbook of Territorial Politics with a chapter on Regional Citizenship in a System of Plural Memberships and Multilevel Rights.

Territorial politics

Our two editors, Eve Hepburn (whom I already spoke about here) and Klaus Detterbeck, did such a splendid job. You can read their introduction here and you can contact me to have a copy of the chapter I wrote.

Square pass(ports)

Together with Jelena, I wrote a blogpost on citizenship and football published on the observatory on citizenship I work for. We did some research and found out that 220 players at the world cup, that is one out of three,  have dual citizenship. These include the likes of Lionel Messi (citizen of Spain and Argentina), Kylian Mbappé (France, Cameroon and Algeria), Dele Alli (Nigeria and England). These players could well be representing another national team, if they had made the choice. And so could other players in the past: imagine what previous world championships would have looked like if Patrick Viera had chosen to play for Senegal instead of France, John Barnes for Jamaica instead of England, Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski for Poland instead of Germany. You can see the visualisation we have made following this link and you can read the article here.

Post scriptum, July 23 2018: we have now published an updated version of this post on the nccr – on the move blog.



Italian version first; English version below

Il giovane Fridtjof Nansen ebbe molteplici interessi sportivi, dedicandosi sia allo sci di fondo che al pattinaggio, ottenendo ottimi successi in entrambi gli sport; all’età di diciotto anni conquistò il record mondiale di pattinaggio sul miglio.

Come esploratore, Nansen è ricordato per il primo attraversamento sugli sci della Groenlandia (nel 1888-1889).

Dopo la prima guerra mondiale, Nansen divenne Alto Commissario della Società delle Nazioni, e fu impiegato in diverse iniziative, fra le quali l’organizzazione degli scambi di prigionieri di guerra e l’aiuto ai rifugiati sovietici; nel corso di questa operazione Nansen ideò il cosiddetto “Passaporto Nansen” per i rifugiati (1922). Il passaporto Nansen era rilasciato dalla Società delle Nazioni a profughi e rifugiati apolidi. In totale furono emessi circa 450.000 passaporti Nansen, che permisero a centinaia di migliaia di persone apolidi l’emigrazione in un paese diverso da quello di origine. Tra gli altri, l’armatore Aristotele Onassis, il pittore Marc Chagall, il fotografo Robert Capa, lo scrittore Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov e il compositore Igor’ Stravinskij ebbero un “passaporto Nansen”.

Nansen si occupò anche dell’assistenza alle popolazioni russe in piena carestia dopo otto anni di guerra interna ed esterna. Garantì protezione e sostegno agli esuli greci ed armeni, coinvolti dalle conseguenze di conflitti spinti da forti nazionalismi. Una situazione che, pur nel suo specifico contesto storico e geografico, dovrebbe oggi fungere da monito e da esempio.


Young Fridtjof Nansen dedicated himself to both cross-country skiing and skating. He obtained remarkable results in both sports; at the age of eighteen he won the world record for skating on the mile.

As an explorer, Nansen is remembered as the first person to cross Greenland side to side using cross-country skies (1888-1889).

After the First World War, Nansen became High Commissioner of the League of Nations, and was employed in various initiatives, including the relocation of prisoners of war and aid to Soviet refugees; in the course of this operation Nansen designed the so-called “Nansen Passport” for refugees (1922). The Nansen passport was issued by the League of Nations to stateless refugees and refugees. In total, about 450,000 Nansen passports have been issued over time. These passports allowed hundreds of thousands of stateless persons to emigrate to a country other than their place of origin. Notable beneficiaries of the Nansen passport are the shipowner Aristotle Onassis, the painter Marc Chagall, the photographer Robert Capa, the writer Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov and the composer Igor ‘Stravinsky.

As High Commissioner of the League of Nations, Nansen also assisted Russian populations affected by the famine that followed eight years of conflict and he also guaranteed protection to Greek and Armenian exiles escaping war. This story should serve as an example for today’s situation resulting from wars and famine in Africa.

Can elected politicians have two passports?

I have written a post for the blog of the nccr – on the move, the Swiss research centre I have been working for since early September. The post sets out from the debate concerning the dual citizenship of politicians: this issue has caused a government crisis in Australia and has also been at the centre of the debate in Switzerland. In my post I use two existing datasets, from GLOBALCIT and MACMIDE respectively, to show which countries around the world establish legal restrictions that make it more complex and sometimes impossible for individuals with dual citizenship to stand as candidates for elections. You can click on the image below to open my interactive map.

citizenship-based restrictions for politicians


Following the publication of my post, I have asked other academics to take up the same question from their perspective. You can find a contribution written by Barbara von Rutte here and one by Nenad Stojanovic here.

You can also read these posts in Italian here.

The outcome of Italy’s referendum may be decided in Castelnuovo di Porto

With voters outside Italy accounting for around 8 per cent of the electorate, the count at the Civil Protection Centre in Castelnuovo di Porto, where the expatriate ballots are delivered, could be crucial in determining the outcome of the Italian Constitutional referendum. I have written a blogpost for the London School of Economics Europp blog. The post has been published also on the EUDO-Citizenship Observatory website.

What a day it was

I must start by saying that my PhD research is on two important topics of politics: citizenship and federalism. Today was a day when the Italian Parliament did something quite important about both of these.

As for federalism, the Senate approved a drastic reduction in its own political leverage, cutting the number of senators from the current 320 directly elected to 95 representative members of the regions – majors (21) and regional council members (74) – and stripping the future senators from all the powers they currently have, leaving the Senate with a say on constitutional reforms only. This is a historic vote: my former supervisor seems to have been recorded saying that “this is Renzi’s biggest gamble so far: it’s rather rare that an established institution votes for its own suicide.” This was a necessary law: Italy’s bloated legislature was given extensive checks on executive power after World War II for essentially two reasons: (1) to prevent the return of a dictator like Benito Mussolini; (2) to give some shares of power to Italy’s second biggest party, the Italian Communist Party, in a system where it would systematically come out second after the Christian Democratic Party. The outcome of this compromise, though, has brought lawmakers slowing down the legislating process and toppling government after government whenever their interests were threatened, producing 63 different administrations since 1946. So these were the two main reasons to drastically downsize the Senate: its historical functions were outdated and it proved to be largely ineffective for lawmaking purposes. In the new system there will be only one chamber, the lower chamber, effectively deciding on legislation. Earlier this year, Renzi’s government approved a new electoral law for that chamber, so to have a clear majority coming out of it – the tension between clear majority and accurate representation of the people lies at the core of politics. Meanwhile, the new bill downsizing the senate will not become law until it is approved again, twice by the lower chamber of parliament, once by the Senate and then by citizens in a referendum next year that promises to be extremely contentious. In any case the new Senate won’t be operative before 2020.

The second update should interest all those following citizenship law. In the same day as the Upper Chamber was voting on its drastic downsizing, the Lower Chamber passed a new citizenship bill. The law gives the right to citizenship to (1) anyone who is born in Italy and has at least one parent legally residing in the EU (a soft version of ius soli) or, alternatively, (2) to those who are born or move to Italy before turning 12 and successfully complete five years in the Italian education system (ius culturae). Importantly, because the devil is in the details, the Italian EU long term permit seems to depend on especially strong “integration tests”, including income, accommodation and language tests. The effect would be that only a small fraction of long term resident parents qualify for this new ius soli procedure. More people would instead qualify for the ius culturae access track.

Appenzell Innerrhoden

Democracy at its most direct in Appenzell, says the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation. In this folkloresque Swiss canton with a rather peculiar name citizens use to gather all together once a year. It happens on the last Sunday of April and this is the moment when they vote open air on the most important local issues, as well as on the election of local judges and representatives. Yes, you understand me: they literally vote open air by raising their hands. No ballots, no anonymity.

It’s not all. Quite astonishingly, in fact, on the occasion the men wear swords. In fact, by tradition the sword signified the wearer’s right to vote. It follows logically that women have long been denied the right to vote. In fact, when the issue was humbly raised back in 1959, the sworded men of the canton voted (rigorously open air) 2050 to 105 against the right of women to vote. The issue was raised again in 1990 and this time it went all thw way in front of the Swiss Constitutional Court. In the case of Theresa Rohner et consorts contre Appenzell Rhodes-Intérieures the Swiss federal court declared unconstitutional the exclusive male suffrage and since then women have been allowed to vote too.

Quite astonishingly, thus, Appenzell Innerrhoden, or the place where democraticy is at its most direct, is also the last place in Western Europe where women have been allowed to vote.


Uzhhorod is a city located in Western Ukraine, not far from Kamenica, where I shortly volunteered in 2013I will go back there at some point. This is a short story used by my supervisor in a recent presentation on the stability and transformation of borders.

It’s 2014. A humble man from Central Eastern Europe dies and goes to heaven. As he arrives to the Pearly Gates of Paradise, Saint Peter greets him and says: well, tell me about your life. The man explains: I was born at the beginning of the last century under the Austrian Monarchy, then I went to school in Czechoslovakia, I got married in Hungary, I started my career in Soviet Union, and I died in Ukraine. So you traveled quite a bit! says St. Peter. No, not at all, I never left my native town of Uzhhorod in my entire life.


Scotland and the erosion of national citizenship

The referendum on the independence of Scotland has a historical significance for citizenship. The net result has been a degree of convergence between the two campaigns, Yes Scotland and Better Together: while independence has morphed into independence-lite, the case for the Union has developed into a case for a somehow different kind of Union. In his admirable reflection on the matter, Mark Elliott wrote that the devil is in the detail: and detail, particularly about how Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom would be calibrated, is notable by its absence.

In spite of the lack of details, it is now clear that a defining challenge to the dominant paradigm of existing nation-states has emerged from both sides, as they exhibited competing visions of how a plurinational democracy can work. The Better Together campaign pleaded to deliver more powers to Scotland, following the idea that citizens living in Scotland can be better served by stronger Scottish institutions interacting with the central British government. This is not too dissimilar from the claims made by the pro-independence coalition, which had advocated an independence-light keeping five of the six unions Scotland is part of: the EU, the queen, the pound, society, and defense. The future developments in the UK are likely to weaken the link between citizenship and the nation-state in the United Kingdom at a time when the interaction between the EU and nation-states already produces a multilevel architecture of citizenship. This is not an isolated development.

Nation-states are increasingly torn between internal demands from regional institutions and the external pushes coming from international migration and supranational institutions. As a result of these parallel processes, the nation-state is slowly but steadily betraying its absolutist original nature. Historically, nation-states were created through repeated wars between the 17th and the 19th century and eventually came into being as the supreme form of political authority in modern Europe. During the last century, national citizenship has become the absolute form of membership exercised by the direct relationship between the individual and the institutions of the nation-state. This idea of citizenship exercised a powerful function; but today, as a greater number of political actors struggle for power and recognition, things are bound to get more complicated. The idea of a single, all-powerful political authority for each national community is increasingly under pressure. Nowhere is this clearer than in Europe. Over the last few decades many European nation-states have been hollowed-out by the emergence of the European Union in many crucial domains of public policy, from economic regulation to monetary policy and control over immigration. At the same time, many European regions are demanding greater institutional recognition: not only Scotland, but also Catalonia, Basque Country, Galicia, Veneto, South Tyrol, Sardinia, Greenland, Faroe Islands, Corsica, Flanders, just to mention the most vocal ones. Interestingly, even if all these movements are going against one nation-state, most of them still want a state of their own. Apparently, it remains very hard to think beyond the nation-state. However, the parallel processes of supranationalism and regionalism are in fact creating novel forms of multilevel citizenship in Europe.

Forms of strengthened autonomy within a greater multilevel ‘whole’ are somehow akin to the kind of architecture that characterized many sub-state political communities that existed before the rise of the nation-state. In these polities one’s political status resulted from the combined effect of different levels of government. Examples include self-governing cities (eg. the Bishopric of Trent, established as a self-standing political community with its own customary laws and royal privileges, but whose inhabitants remained subjects of the larger Holy Roman Empirestate), Ottoman eyalets (eg. Bosnia, a constituent province of the Ottoman caliphate that was autonomously governed by a vizier as part of the larger kingdom of Ottoman sultans), constituent parts of Empires (eg. the Archiregnum Hungaricum, a complex confection of states and local autonomies that were part of the Habsburg Empire but could retain their own sovereignty to legislate in the areas of justice, education and religious matters, and interior affairs) and, more recently, free cities (eg. the Free City of Danzig, the semi-autonomous city-state that existed between 1920 and 1939 under League of Nations protection and put into a binding customs union with Poland). These are all examples of how individual rights and duties can result from the interaction between different layers of government.

The outcome of the Scottish referendum goes in this direction. The campaign showed that “Independence” and “Union” are not binary concepts: each instead represents a very wide spectrum of constitutional possibilities. The Better Together side won under a promise of delivering more powers to the four nations that are part of the Kingdom. The question that now faces this country is not concerned only with the amount of authority that will be devolved, but also with its nature, purpose, and constitutional security. The most obvious alternative to the present system is federalism, but here, too, we must be careful. Like devolution and independence, federalism can be declined in many different ways and it would unthinkable to transfer the kind of German federalism to the UK. Importantly, however, the Scottish referendum has prompted fundamental rethinking about the distribution of power within the United Kingdom and which layers of government should be responsible for individual rights. Outside Europe, Quebec has shifted focus from “independence” to “special partnership” with the rest of Canada. In the contemporary world, it is becoming more and more common that individual citizenship rights result from a nested structure composed of smaller communities that are contained within larger ones. It is within this institutional setting that plurinational forms of democracy emerge as workable alternatives to the traditional paradigm of absolute national citizenship.