Centrul de Drept Constituțional și Instituţii Politice (CDCIP)

Stefan DEACONU – The Citizenship in the Romanian law

The paper presents the historical evolution of the concept of citizenship in the Romanian legislation, making the distinction between concepts of citizenship, nationality and nation. Nowadays many Constitutions and laws use the concept of citizenship to express the relationship between an individual and a state; initially, this concept was similar to that of nationality. In Romania citizenship was regulated for the first time in 1865 through the Civil Code. The quality of a person of being a Romanian citizen had not existed before.

This had an influence on laws implemented at that time, as the legislator had to consider how to confer the quality of citizenship to various inhabitants of the country. There were (and still are) several ways to obtain citizenship, following the principle of ius sanguinis: birth, naturalization, marriage and repatriation. A person could lose his/her citizenship by being repatriated in a foreign country, by being named in a public function by a foreign Government without the authorization of the fatherland authorities, by being under foreign protection, or by going under foreign military service without the authorization of the Government of the fatherland authorities and by marriage to a foreigner, in the case of women.

Some of the principles introduced by the Romanian Civil Code still govern the legislation on citizenship and the interpretation given to some provisions is the same even today. For example, the regulation which provides that “any child found on Romanian territory is considered Romanian citizen” is interpreted even nowadays as it was back in 1865: the child has Romanian citizenship because there is a strong possibility that at least one of his/her parents is/was Romanian citizen.

The laws regulating the Romanian citizenship, adopted in 1924, 1939, 1948, 1952, 1971 and 1991, have been important legal instruments in the evolution of the legal concept of citizenship.

The text emphasizes the terminological and legal differences between the concepts of citizenship and nationality in the Romanian law. At legal level, the difference between citizenship and nationality depends on the association of the concept of nationality with the territory (as a constituent element of the state) or with parentage (descendents of a particular person). In the first situation, nationality means allegiance to a country. This applies to natural persons, when becoming citizens of a state, and to legal persons. In the second situation, we speak about nationality in terms of parentage, defining the spiritual affiliation of natural person to a nation.

The first situation is met mostly in Western Europe, where nationality and citizenship have the same meaning. The second stands mostly for Central and Eastern Europe, including the Balkans, where the distinction between nationality and citizenship is still made. A possible explanation is that all modern states were constituted on national basis. However, this process ended sooner in Western Europe and therefore the national element has diminished earlier there. On the other hand, in Central and Eastern Europe, new states have appeared during the last years (such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia or the new independent states that were once part of the Soviet Union) and this process developed on the basis of nationality, which induces the difference between nationality and citizenship. Consequently, in this part of Europe, foreign citizens are considered to have their own national state and therefore they are treated not as individuals, but as members of a community.

The prospect of realizing a large United Europe and creating a European citizenship makes us believe that, in the future, there will be no more distinctions and nuances between nationality and citizenship.