The Dutch government plans to relax citizenship rules making it easier to obtain dual nationality.
In a letter to MPs published by the website DutchNews.Nl, junior migration minister Mark Harbers announced that the government will start consultations in the first quarter of 2019. The draft bill should expand the possibilities of obtaining dual nationality for ‘first generation’ immigrants and emigrants. The following generation, however, will be requested to choose the passport they intend to keep and lose the other one.
The Netherlands is one of the EU countries with the most restrictive citizenship laws. Dual nationality is allowed only in specific cases, such as being married to a Dutch national or, for Dutch nationals, being married to a foreigner.
The new law should soften such approach. But it also raises concerns about the rights of future generations. Eelco Keij, a Dutch-American campaigner on citizenship rights, told Europe Street: “The problem is how to define ‘first generation’ migrants in today’s world. My child is born in the US, then he moved to the Netherlands and back to the US again. Nowadays people move across countries multiple times in life. Since the law was announced, I have received many messages from parents who are worried about the rights of their children.”
Keij said that new rules should be broadly welcomed as they are the result of “years of campaigning by Dutch citizens abroad”. But as things stand, they do not go far enough. He believes ‘second generation’ migrants should be able to keep more than one nationality, if they specifically request it, or they might permanently lose rights and connections with their country of origin.
Too late for Brexit
Because of Brexit, many people in Britain and in the Netherlands considered applying for naturalisation in the respective country to protect their rights. Many were deterred by the ban on dual citizenship.
Last year a group of Dutch nationals in the UK launched a petition calling on the government to reform existing rules. But it is unlikely that the new law will be adopted before 31 December 2020, the end of the post-Brexit transition period.
Germany, which allows dual nationality only to citizens from other EU countries, has recently started the legislative process to allow dual citizenship for people applying during the Brexit transition (between 29 March 2019 and 31 December 2020). “The Netherlands should adopt an exception like Germany,” said Eelco Keij.
According to estimates, there are between 800,000 and 1.2 million Dutch citizens living abroad, of which 100,000 in the UK. About 1.5 million non-Dutch nationals live in the Netherlands, according to the EU statistical office Eurostat.
A ruling could change everything
Meanwhile, the European Court of Justice is expected to rule on a case that could have an impact on the new Dutch law. The case refers to the refusal of the Dutch government to renew the passport of citizens with a second passport issued by a non-EU country. Several lawsuits were brought to Dutch courts in this regard and the Dutch Council of State referred the issue to the European Court of Justice.
Dutch citizens can lose their nationality if they hold a foreign passport, reside outside the EU for an uninterrupted period of ten years and do not apply for a travel document in that period. If their second nationality is of a non-EU country, this means they are also stripped of EU citizenship and the free movement rights deriving from it. If parents lose Dutch nationality, their children lose it too.
In a preliminary ruling in July, the EU Advocate General said that for adults, the law is compatible with EU citizenship rules. But for minors it isn’t, because children do not have the possibility to take any action in order to avoid the loss of Dutch (and EU) citizenship.
The ruling by the European Court of Justice is expected by the end of the year. The Dutch government has committed to wait for the outcome of this judgement before tabling new rules.
Claudia Delpero © all rights reserved.
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