By Jim Jump
IBMT Chair

Families of International Brigaders could soon be eligible to apply for Spanish citizenship, thanks to a draft law that has cleared its main hurdle in the Cortes (Spanish parliament).

Article 33 of the new Democratic Memory Law offers citizenship to those descendants of the International Brigaders who can prove that they have ‘worked continuously to spread the memory of their ancestors and defend democracy in Spain’. There would be no need to renounce current citizenship.

The IBMT has welcomed the news, while cautioning that details of how the legislation will be applied have yet to be revealed.

The Trust is also pointing out that the measure faces stiff opposition from right-wing parties and that a general election is due to be held in Spain by early in 2024.

On 14 July the lower house of the Cortes – the Congress of Deputies – voted by 173 to 159 to approve the proposed law. It was supported by the ruling PSOE socialist party under Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and its junior left-wing coalition partner, Unidas Podemos. Backing also came from the Basque and some Catalan nationalist and separatist parties. 

Spanish press reports suggest that it was Unidas Podemos which had insisted that the right to claim citizenship should be extended to Brigaders’ families.

The new legislation includes a raft of measures designed to dismantle the legacy of Franco, who, after crushing the Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39, ruled Spain until his death in 1975.

Before becoming law it must be ratified by the upper house of the Cortes, the Senate, though this is considered to be a formality..

Urging its adoption, Spain’s minister for democratic memory, Félix Bolaños, told the Cortes that Spain needed to deepen the process that began with the Historical Memory Law introduced by the PSOE government of José Luis Zapatero in 2007.

It was this first ‘memory law’ that granted unconditional Spanish citizenship to surviving International Brigaders, and in June 2009 a ceremony was held at the Spanish embassy in London to confer citizenship on nine veterans.

Bolaños added: ‘Memory is a right, a citizen’s right and, above all, a victims' right.’

When plans for the Democratic Memory Law were published in 2020, the IBMT was disappointed that there was no provision for Spanish citizenship for families of International Brigaders. This was despite an earlier announcement that this would be the case by then Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias.

Félix Bolaños speaking in the Cortes.

During consultations on the proposals, the IBMT pressed behind the scenes for an amendment that would open the door to citizenship rights for families of the more than 2,000 Britons who served in the International Brigades. The Trust did this via the Madrid-based AABI Association of Friends of the International Brigades, submitting testimony from family members to support its lobbying.

The Democratic Memory Law will also:

The IBMT will be monitoring developments closely and will keep members informed about when the Democratic Memory Law comes into force and how applications for citizenship can be made.

See the text (Spanish only) that was approved by the Cortes here:

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