Right-wing rhetoric and unruly referendums in Europe can give the impression that Brussels is imposing common standards on the EU countries' citizenship policies. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rules concerning citizenship, particularly for immigrants from countries outside Europe, vary extraordinarily -- from the relatively liberal rules of France and Sweden to the exclusionary ones of Austria and Italy. (This large divergence is one reason why Brussels has almost no say in this area.) Howard sets out to explain these striking differences, finding that colonialism, despite its manifest cruelty and inequality, had the ironic consequence of spreading egalitarian sentiments in colonial powers. As a result, Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom tend to have liberal citizenship policies. These countries also made relatively early transitions to democracy, which further encouraged open-mindedness. Of those countries that were not colonial powers, those with left-wing or centrist governments (such as Germany and Sweden) have been more welcoming to immigrants, whereas those with powerful extreme right-wing parties (such as Austria, Denmark, and Italy) have remained closed. Of course, treating extreme right-wing activism as a cause of strict immigration policies begs the question of why some countries are subject to this sort of partisan mobilization. Howard's explanation is nonetheless a welcome first step beyond the usual stereotypes about Europe's immigration policies.
Get the best of Foreign Affairs' book reviews delivered to you.