EU Member States may revoke citizenship from dual nationals if compatible with EU law

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has ruled that in particular circumstances, Member States have the authority to deprive people of their citizenship if they hold dual nationality, including in situations wherein this person would subsequently lose their EU citizenship.

The decision arose after a case was brought by four Dutch nationals who had their applications for the renewal of their Dutch passports refused by the Minister of Foreign Affairs on the grounds that each of them had a second, non-EU nationality. Under Dutch law, if an adult with a second nationality primarily resides in a country outside of the EU for a continuous period of 10 years, they may waive their right to Dutch citizenship, which in many cases also means a loss of EU citizenship.

The Council of State in the Netherlands was concerned as to the discretion afforded to Member States in determining the removal of citizenship and its compatibility with EU law, namely Article 20 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), and referred the matter to the CJEU for a preliminary ruling.

In the CJEU ruling, it was found that the act of revoking a person’s nationality was not in itself a violation of EU law where that person is a national of a non-Member State who has had their link with the respective Member State durably interrupted.

It was acknowledged that the Netherlands had taken this approach to deter people from retaining Dutch nationality if they did not or no longer have a genuine link with the country in order to impede the negative effects that having citizens of multiple nationality may have on the State.

The Court noted that the grounds on which a Dutch dual-national may lose their Dutch citizenship, which was based on the habitual residence of these nationals for an uninterrupted period of 10 years outside the Netherlands or the EU, were legitimate. This was due to the fact that provisions within Dutch nationality law did preclude the risk of becoming stateless.

This legitimacy was further strengthened by the fact during the 10 year period wherein a dual-Dutch citizen is habitually resident in a non-Member State, a request for the issuing of a declaration regarding the possession of Netherlands nationality, a travel document or a Netherlands identity card indicated intention to retain a genuine link.

The Court found that the loss of nationality must be consistent with the principle of proportionality; national authorities must carry out individual examinations of each person’s situation and maintain a consistency with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Therefore, the CJEU ruled that such national legislation was not in violation of EU law, and that EU law did not preclude the loss of nationality once the aforementioned criteria was met.

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