Bad news, Francophiles: It just became harder to become French. Nicolas Sarkozy’s government has just thrown up some tough new hurdles for would-be French citizens, requiring them to pass a difficult language test (foreigners will need to speak French at the level of a French 15-year-old) and swear allegiance to "French values," the Los Angeles Times reports. The new rules, which went into effect on Jan. 1, also forbid the new citizens from claiming “allegiance to another country while on French soil,” though dual nationality is still permitted.
Critics have blasted the new rules as a cheap election-year ploy, and a not-so-subtle swipe at Muslims, who make up most new French citizens. "France has the motto 'Liberty, equality, fraternity.' But we are not seeing a lot of equality at the moment," complained a spokeswoman for one anti-discrimination group. Conservatives counter that becoming French should be a major decision—the interior minister describes it as a "solemn occasion between the host nation and the applicant."