Contesting Regimes of Post-Communist Citizenship Restitution: Analysing UK Media Coverage of ‘Paupers’ Passports’
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This paper unpacks the legitimacy gap existing between post-communist policies of citizenship restitution, the experiences of these policies, and the media coverage of these policies. Considering citizenship restitution first as analogous to property restitution, theoretically citizenship restitution appears as compensatory, to right the wrongs of communist- and Soviet-era seizures and border changes, and appears to establish citizenship restitution as a right. Using UK media coverage of Romania’s policy of citizenship restitution vis-à-vis Moldova, the paper shows the extent to which this policy is framed as an illegitimate loophole propagated by a ‘Romanian Other’ which is ‘giving out’ EU passports, exploited by an impoverished and criminal ‘Moldovan Other’, and inflicted on a ‘UK Self’ that is powerless to stem the tide of migration and block routes to gaining access to the EU via such policies. However, the paper also contrasts, and challenges, this media framing by using interviews with those acquiring Romanian citizenship in Moldova to demonstrate the extent to which acquiring Romanian citizenship in Moldova is a costly and lengthy procedure. Overall, the paper shows the extent to which citizenship restitution is a contested procedure, constructed as a right by the state seeking to compensate former citizens, and as illegitimate by those who construct a logic resulting from feeling threatened by policies of citizenship restitution.
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