To be French, according to the first article of the French Constitution, is to be a citizen of France, regardless of one's origin, race, or religion (sans distinction d'origine, de race ou de religion). According to its principles, France has devoted itself to the destiny of a proposition nation, a generic territory where people are bounded only by the French language and the assumed willingness to live together, as defined by Ernest Renan's "plébiscite de tous les jours" ('everyday plebiscite') on the willingness to live together, in Renan's 1882 essay "Qu'est-ce qu'une nation?").
The debate concerning the integration of this view with the principles underlying the European Community remains open.
A large number of foreigners have traditionally been permitted to live in France and succeeded in doing so. Indeed, the country has long valued its openness, tolerance and the quality of services available. Application for French citizenship is often interpreted as a renunciation of previous state allegiance unless a dual citizenship agreement exists between the two countries (for instance, this is the case with Switzerland: one can be both French and Swiss). The European treaties have formally permitted movement and European citizens enjoy formal rights to employment in the state sector (though not as trainees in reserved branches, e.g., as magistrates).
Seeing itself as an inclusive nation with universal values, France has always valued and strongly advocated assimilation. However, the success of such assimilation has recently been called into question. There is increasing dissatisfaction with, and within, growing ethno-cultural enclaves (communautarisme). The 2005 French riots in some troubled and impoverished suburbs (les quartiers sensibles) were an example of such tensions. However they should not be interpreted as ethnic conflicts (as appeared before in other countries like the USA and the UK) but as social conflicts born out of socioeconomic problems endangering proper integration.