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BREXIT

French citizenship test: Do you know France well enough to gain nationality?

After Boris Johnson's election win interest in becoming French has seen a spike once again. Anyone who applies is expected by the French government to have sufficient "knowledge of France's history, culture and society". So, do you know France well enough to become French? Take our quiz.

French citizenship test: Do you know France well enough to gain nationality?
Photo: AFP
Boris Johnson's big election win in December and the likelihood that nothing can stop Brexit now has prompted many Britons in France to apply for French citizenship.
 
“I'm gutted! But it has made my decision easier to apply for French nationality,” was one of many similar messages sent to The Local the day after the Conservatives election triumph.
 
This comes after the number of Brits seeking French citizenship has seen a tenfold increase in the last three years, as The Local reported earlier this year.
 
On the long and often difficult path to French citizenship there are many hurdles to get through including gathering seemingly paperwork, learning French and the wait to hear the final decision. 
 
Another is proving that you have enough knowledge about France. And you will likely be tested on it in an interview with the French official who handles your application.
 
(Click here to take the quiz now or read on for some useful information)
 
Applicants' stories of their interviews at the prefecture vary wildly with some suggesting they were put through the mill with question after question while others described it as a walk in the park.
 
Much may depend on the official in front of you and whether they are having a good or bad day. 
 
The French government's website states the purpose of the interview is to “verify, pursuant to Article 21-24 of the Civil Code, that the applicant has in particular sufficient knowledge of French history, culture and society.”

 
The government defines the the level of knowledge of French history, culture and society expected “as corresponding to the fundamental elements relating to the great landmarks of the history of France, to the principles, symbols and institutions of the Republic, to the exercise of French citizenship and of France in Europe and in the world.”
 
But luckily, the government doesn't expect you to figure it all out on your own — for anyone applying for citizenship there is something called a Livret du Citoyen (Citizen's Handbook) available online, that the government encourages you to read up on before your interview.
 
 
 
This book tells you some of what you need to know but, the government stresses, not everything.
 
It goes into the main features of the current organization of the French Republic and the principles and values ​​attached to it.
 
For example the book reminds us that: 
 
  • The government can refuse French nationality to any applicant not seen to be living according to the value of equality between men and women. 
  • Freedom of expression is a fundamental right but there are limits. For example, in order to respect the rights of others, you can't go around broadcasting insults, slanderous remarks, inciting hatred or apologising for crimes against humanity. 
  • An employer cannot refuse to employ someone based on their origins, ethnicity or gender. All decisions regarding hiring including who gets a promotion should be based on professional reasons not personal ones.
  • A 2004 law banned pupils from wearing symbols or clothing that obviously demonstrates which religion they belong to. The idea is that schools are public institutions which shapes members of French society and as a result it should be separated from religion in accordance with the principle of “laicite” or “secularism”. For this same reason, public officials also aren't allowed to wear religious symbols at work.
 
Fiona Mougenot, who runs the immigration advice consultancy Expat Partners, previously told The Local that applicants might need a bit more knowledge than what is contained in the booklet and if it comes across that you are going the process just to get papers then they are going to spot it.
 
It also includes some important dates in French history and how the country has evolved over time. It looks at the contribution of a number of naturalized people to their adopted country, including Russian-born artist Marc Chagall and Polish-born scientist Marie Curie. 
 
It also gives you some geographical knowledge of France such as the longest rivers as well as details on how the country's administration works. But why not take the quiz below to find out if you know France well enough to become French.
 
 
 
 
 

Member comments

  1. Interesting quiz – but you really should spell the name of President Mitterrand (1981-1995) correctly. There are two R’s not one. A small, pedantic point but important none the less.

    Tony Slaughter

  2. Thank you Graham B. That dead link was frustrating! Always love someone who provides a solution rather than grumbling!

  3. Link still broken or quiz removed?
    It’s lucky I don’t want to go back to the UK, even as a Brit I failed the knowledge questionnaire!

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BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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