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Edith Piaf - cycling champion, bird expert or singer?


From 1 July, it’s going to be harder to obtain French citizenship through naturalisation, under new rules issued by the interior ministry.

The idea is to ensure that those who are granted citizenship have a basic knowledge of French culture, society and history.

Candidates for citizenship will face a multiple choice test of 10 questions corresponding roughly to the level of knowledge expected of a French 11 year old.

Sample questions include the one above as well as “With whom do you associate the Arc de Triomphe? Napoleon, General de Gaulle and Julius Caesar are suggested as possible replies.

Or there’s Where is Mont Saint Michel? Is it a) in the Mediterranean b) On the river Seine c) In Normandy.

The questions have already been tried on an experimental basis on 2000 candidates with a success rate of 70 to 80 per cent.

The tests are in line with a trend among many countries to make citizenship harder to attain in the hope that it will be more highly-valued. Some French towns are also laying on special ceremonies when nationality papers are awarded, to highlight the importance of citizenship.

Last June the rules on language were also tightened – successful applicants for naturalisation must now demonstrate a level of oral French comparable to a French 15 year old.

The moves come against a background of concern that the French model of integration is failing, and a rise in support for the far-right National Front.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy won the votes of many National Front sympathisers when he was elected in 2007, but polls show that many are ready to switch to the far-right party in presidential elections this spring.

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