Spain’s big announcement of a new law that set a fast-track Spanish citizenship for Sephardic Jews has faced numerous delays, leaving thousands waiting for full approval by the Spanish government. The new naturalization law is set to accelerate the process for Jews of proven Sephardic origin whose families were driven out after the Inquisition to obtain a Spanish passport as well as being able to retain their own national identity. It’s an attractive option for many residing outside the European Union.
Spanish embassies around the world are reporting floods of applications from descendants of Sephardic Jews expelled during the Spanish Inquisition following Madrid’s promotion of an updated law that helps foreigners repatriate. Spanish law already provides two avenues. In 1988, Sephardic Jews had their minimum residency requirement reduced from ten to two years. Sephardi can also provide evidence of their Spanish descendancy, though acceptance is subject to discretionary approval.
The Spanish government claims the new law will make acceptance obligatory and allow dual citizenship. Experts close to the law’s progress tell JN1 that delays have been due to Madrid’s investigation of potential extra costs to Spanish tax payers, a growing concern for a country shrinking its public purse to deal with the debt crisis, but a lack of progress has also lead some skeptics to believe Spain’s promotion of the law was more of a political gesture.
“Previous government and the current one feel that they have to maintain a status quo between their relations with the Arab Islamic world and Israel. When one supports and votes the Palestine to obtain absurd status in the United Nations, one has to compensate by telling the state of Israel and now for Sephardi we’re going to accelerate the repatriation process. This is a game of interest,” said Sebastian de la Obra.
Rafael Cohen believes laying out a welcome mat for Jewish investment in Spain might also be a reason and might be good for the country.
“I think when — if they have movement the Jew for — in Spain, they can come with financing, with development, with industries, etc. because you know that the Jew, they are very active, and Spain is open now for — to be — to be open for investments important in Spain,” said Rafael Cohen.
Consensus is that most Sephardi applicants aren’t seeking residency in Spain but a sentimental connection to their past, a journey that just got longer, further delays to the approval of the new law means that applications may not be processed until November of this year, almost a full year since the law was first proposed, but interest is high and as the Spanish economy picks up, that waiting list is only set to get longer, Sandra Gathmann for JN1 in Maluenda, Spain.