Appeal lodged after French citizenship refused 'for not knowing who Edith Cresson was'

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Appeal lodged after French citizenship refused 'for not knowing who Edith Cresson was'
French former Prime Minister Edith Cresson, pictured in 2018. Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP

A young Albanian man has said he will appeal after his application for French citizenship was refused when he was unable to answer questions on Edith Cresson, Jules Ferry and the current education minister.


An application for French citizenship includes an interview at the préfecture in which candidates are required to demonstrate a knowledge of the history and culture of France, as well as demonstrating their own assimilation and adherence to the values of the French republic.

Unlike in many other countries there is no written test, instead it's an in-person interview with an employee at the préfecture. Readers of The Local have reportedly a wide variation in interview experiences - some had a friendly chat with their interviewer and were asked a couple of questions, others were grilled for up to an hour.

Philosophy and cheese - What you might be asked in a French citizenship interview

The 25-year-old Albanian man, named in French media as Antoine, has been in France for 11 years after arriving with his family in 2012. He completed his schooling in France, works as a waiter and car-valet in Limoges and is described as having 'impeccable' French. 


The first stage of his application - assembling an extensive dossier of documents - passed smoothly, but when it came to the interview at the préfecture Antoine says things got difficult.

READ ALSO The ultimate guide to getting French citizenship

He told Le Parisien: "The interviewer asked me about my religion, what I thought of [footballer] Karim Benzema and whether I preferred France or Albania. I regret not having been able to film the interview."

The interview continued for 45 minutes with a long string of questions about French history, geography and politics including some less well-known figures such as Edith Cresson, who was prime minister between 1991 and 1992. These days she is remembered less for her brief period in office and more for being France's first female prime minister.

Antoine was informed by letter that his citizenship application had been rejected, on request the préfecture provided a list of the questions that he had been unable to answer correctly.

He says he intends to appeal the decision.

The full list of questions that the préfecture at Haute-Vienne said that Antoine had not answered correctly were;

  1. Where would one find Arromanche?
  2. What was commemorated on June 6th 2023?
  3. Who was Jules Ferry?
  4. Name the historical figure who ordered the construction of the Chateau de Versailles
  5. Who was Jean Moulin?
  6. Name the historical figure who ordered the construction of the Arc de Triomphe
  7. Name the republican regime which has been in effect in France since October 4th 1958
  8. Who was Edith Cresson?
  9. Name the two institutions which form the French parliament
  10. Name the current finance minister
  11. Name the current education minister 
  12. Name the current Garde de Sceaux (keeper of the seals)
  13. Name the symbols of the French republic 
  14. How many countries make up the European Union?
  15. Explain where to find Nouméa
  16. Explain the meaning of the word laïcité
  17. Explain the meaning of the word fraternité

The answers 

  1. It's a seaside resort in Normandy, best known for being one of the landing beaches for the D-Day landings in 1944
  2. June 6th is the anniversary of the D-Day landings, when Allied troops landed in Normandy and began liberating the country from the occupying Nazi forces. It is generally seen as the beginning of the end of WWII in Europe
  3. A 19th century politician best known as the promoter of the state policy of secularism and expanding secular schooling available to all 
  4. Louis XIV, known as 'the sun king'
  5. A resistance leader during WWII, Jean Moulin co-ordinated resistance in France before eventually being captured and tortured to death in 1943
  6. Napoleon 
  7. The Fifth Republic
  8. Prime minister between 1991 and 1992 under president François Mitterand. Best known for being France's first female prime minister (and only female prime minister until the appointment of Elisabeth Borne in 2022)
  9. The Assemblée nationale (lower house) and Sénat (upper house)
  10. Bruno Le Maire, who has been in post since 2017 - the only one of Macron's ministers to have hung on to his job for the president's entire term (so far)
  11. Gabriel Attal (although when Antoine had his interview in June it would have been Pap Ndiaye)
  12. Eric Dupond-Moretti - the title of 'keeper of the seals' is a formality bestowed on the Justice Minister 
  13. A slightly vague question, in our opinion, but the website of the Elysée suggests that any of the following would count as symbols of the republic; the French flag (tricolore), the national anthem (La Marseillaise), the figure of Marianne, the national motto (liberté, egalité, fraternité), the Fête nationale (July 14th), the French cockerel, the crest known as Le Faisceau de Licteur or the seal (Le Sceau).
  14. 27 
  15. It's the capital of the French overseas territory of Nouvelle Caledonie (New Caledonia) which is a small island in the Pacific
  16. It's France official policy of state secularism which means that although anyone is free to practice their religion in private, religion of any kind must play no part in the institutions of the state such as government or schools - find a full explanation of this tricky concept here.
  17. 'Brotherhood' or fraternity, it makes up one third of the French motto and carries a sense of solidarity with your fellow citizens.

Although France had a relatively generous citizenship policy - allowing people to apply after just five years of residency, the process itself is long and complicated. Around one third of all applications are rejected, although the most common reasons are previous criminal convictions, a lack of financial resources or an incomplete dossier.


It is less common for people to be rejected at at the interview stage, although high-profile cases include a woman who was rejected because she refused to shake the male interviewer's hand.

Over the border in Switzerland, the interview stage is much tougher and people have been rejected for not knowing enough about the bears at their local zoo, for complaining about the noise of cowbells and for wearing tracksuits.


Antoine had a particularly tough interview, but you can take our quiz - made up of questions from more typical citizenship interviews - here.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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Ganesh Natrajan 2023/08/31 19:00
The questions seem to have become considerably tougher than they were when I applied. The only question I could not answer was where Napoleon was buried (At the Hotel des invalides in Paris, for those who are curious or preparing :)). I got through, luckily.

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