Citizenship in the Nordic Countries

Past, Present, Future

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The Nordic countries have a century-long tradition for cooperation within the area of citizenship law. Since the mid-1970s, however, the Nordic countries have moved in different directions. Today, the Nordic countries represent the entire continuum in European citizenship policies – from liberal Sweden to restrictive Denmark, with the other Nordic neighbors in between. This report reviews the historical development and the current citizenship regime in the five Nordic countries, it provides statistics on the acquisition and loss of citizenship in each country over the past 10-15 years, and it offers a comparative analysis of the divergent development of citizenship law in the 2000s. The concluding chapter discusses possible consequences of the different citizenship regimes and the prospects for strengthened cooperation between the Nordic countries in the area of citizenship law.




Citizenship defines the boundaries between insiders and outsiders in the nation state; between those that formally belong (citizens) and those that do not (aliens). Not surprisingly, then, have citizenship law and naturalization policies in Europe historically been characterized by striking national dissimilarities (Brubaker 1989). In the research literature, this variation has been explained by referral to the close coupling of citizenship and the conceptions of nationhood that are embedded in the political and cultural history of a country (Brubaker 1992). Citizenship law is the institutional expression of the sovereign right of a state to determine the terms under which new members shall be included in the national community (Hansen & Weil 2001). Hence, different ideas of nationhood are manifested in rules for the acquisition of citizenship, as these rules signal a nation state’s willingness to include newcomers in the national community (Brubaker 1992; see also Brochmann 2002; Favell 1998).


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