OPINION

Citizenship process is delicate

The government’s initiative to grant Greek citizenship to the children of foreigners living in the country has sparked a heated debate. As the number of migrants remains unknown, as people continue to flee humanitarian or economic crises in growing numbers, as the bodies of the most unfortunate wash up on our coasts, as Greece becomes a transit point and purgatory for the desperate of the developing world and as the country struggles with an economic crisis, the debate, the likes of which Greece has not seen since 1912-22, will obviously be very heated. However, the passing of such a reform needs a cool head and clear sense of the effects it will have. Such steps cannot be based simply on ideology or a desire to appear the benevolent humanitarian. A society that is feeling greater financial pressure can turn against any reform measure in the blink of an eye, however rational and correct it may be, when it begins to feel that the source of its insecurity and anger is the foreigner. After being milked for all it was worth in order to ensure entry into the eurozone and stage the 2004 Olympic Games, the dynamic of foreign labor is now competing with the domestic working class for ever lower salaries. Midsized businesses face an uncertain future, the social security system is on the brink of collapse, state schools and hospitals have been exhausted, partly because of the extra weight represented by immigrants, and the country’s youth is low on hope and high on rage. Greeks need to be reassured that the process will be conducted under strict guidelines and that they will benefit from it – morally, psychologically, demographically and financially. The process of assimilating a large and diverse population into a country that until recently has known cultural homogeneity is a delicate, long and painful one. Handing out citizenship en masse changes a country’s demographics and its history and should not be left to amateurs.