One of the most pressing issues in contemporary European societies is the need to promote integration and social inclusion in the context of rapidly increasing migration. A particular challenge confronting national governments is the need to accommodate speakers of an ever increasing number of languages within what in most cases are still perceived as monolingual indigenous populations. This has given rise to public debates in many countries on proposals to impose a requirement of competence in a 'national' language and culture as a condition for acquiring citizenship. This project will bring together international experts on language policy to exchange knowledge and ideas on this question in order to develop a more well-informed basis for public discussion and policy formulation.

Rationale and context

EU enlargement and the ongoing rise in the rate of migration into and across Europe suggest that the salience of these issues is likely to continue to grow

The principal rationale for this project is the urgent need to develop a fuller conceptual and theoretical basis than is currently available for the widespread public discussion of the linguistic and cultural requirements being proposed as an element in the gate-keeping process leading to the achievement of citizenship in many EU member states. This discussion has highlighted the controversial nature of such policy proposals and their potentially far-reaching consequences for social inclusion and integration. However, it has been conducted almost entirely at a national level within each state, with little if any attention paid either to the broader European context or to comparable experience in other parts of the world (notably in countries with long traditions of migration such as the US, Israel or Australia). At the same time, EU enlargement and the ongoing rise in the rate of migration into and across Europe suggest that the salience of these issues is likely to continue to grow. The project workshops will therefore seek to raise the level of discussion to take account of international dimensions and to promote a more coherent and more soundly based debate.

Key questions for the workshops

  1. Why has language become a salient issue at regional, national and supranational levels in recent debates on citizenship and identity in European states?
  2. Why is proficiency in 'national' languages considered as a key element or even pre-requisite for social cohesion and integration? Why does this apparently not apply to certain categories of migrants such as 'key workers' is specified sectors or expatriate citizens of other EU member states?
  3. What are the rationale and the ethical justification for introducing language tests as a condition for citizenship?
  4. Why are multilingual repertoires that include languages other than 'national' languages of EU member states almost absent in the concept of 'integration' as it is currently articulated in most official documentation?
  5. How can we account for the paradoxes inherent in the contrasts between (monolingual) state policies and (multilingual) European policies and the contingent relationship between national and European citizenship?
  6. What linguistic ideologies underpin debates and policies on language and citizenship?
  7. What are the implications for these debates of EU enlargement in 2005-07? Are there clear differences between 'old' and 'new' member states in this respect?

Research methods

One purpose for the proposed workshops will be to develop a common methodological framework for the case studies and analyses, although there will inevitably be some variation from one case study to another. Common elements will include critical analysis of:

  • official and public discourses based on published documents (in the widest sense: e.g. policy proposals, legislative texts, parliamentary debates, media debates etc);
  • interviews with policy makers;
  • ethnographic interviews with stakeholders (i.e. both affected migrants and non-migrants with whom they are in contact) focusing on specific urban neighbourhoods and cross-generational patterns;
  • assessment tasks for citizenship (both on language and on 'cultural knowledge').