Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance

ACELG Presentation: How Terrorism Threat Turns Foreigners into Enemies

Graziella Romeo

05June2012 13:15 - 14:15


Graziella Romeo

The idea is deeply rooted that the presence of foreigners on a country’s soil potentially poses a threat to internal security. In Europe as well as in the United States, every episode associated with international terrorism has provoked a new wave of legislation on immigration and border controls. Within democratic states a general presumption seems to be that one’s own citizens are not (or, at least, less) dangerous and suspicions are directed in the first instance at foreign nationals. The bond of citizenship imposes a duty of transparency on the public authorities in two senses: ex ante with regard to political decision-making processes, and ex post with regard to decisions of a strictly legal nature (by the administrative authorities and the courts).

This presentation shall address the issue of secrecy and democracy by examining the relationship between legislatures and individuals subjected to their regulations. It shall discuss the use of the language of secrecy in relation to non-citizens who are lawfully present in a country, but incur a deportation order because they allegedly pose a threat to national security. Based upon an analysis of the legislation in four countries (Italy, France, Spain and the UK) an attempt will be made to highlight how the recourse to discretionary, and at times arbitrary, decision making is concealed through the use of a “secrecy code”.

The speaker argues that the legislations examined create a nexus between foreign national status and systematic use of State secrecy. As a result, a nineteenth century conception of citizenship as membership of or loyalty towards one’s own political community re-emerges at a moment when the need for defence beyond the State’s borders is increasingly being asserted.


Graziella Romeo is lecturer in Civil Liberties and Human Rights and in Public Law at L. Bocconi University. She was Visiting scholar and Guest lecturer at Fordham Law School, New York on the topic Citizenship and equality in a comparative perspective. In 2009, she was Rechercheur libre at the Institut d’Études européennes, Université Libre de Bruxelles. She recently published a monographic work on cosmopolitanism and the rights of noncitizens (Social citizenship in the age of cosmopolitanism: a comparative study, written in Italian, Padova, CEDAM, 2011). She is member of the Italian Association of Comparative Law, younger scholar section, and member of the editorial staff of the Italian Review of Comparative and European law (Diritto pubblico comparato ed europeo).

Venue and registration

Tuesday, 5 June 2012, 13.15 – 14.15
Oudemanhuispoort 4-6, 1012 CN Amsterdam, E 1.07

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