Double Nationality in the EU: An Argument for Tolerance

Published date01 May 2011
AuthorDimitry Kochenov
Date01 May 2011
Double Nationality in the EU:
An Argument for Tolerance
Dimitry Kochenov*
Abstract: Currently the Member States’ nationalities, short of being abolished in the
legal sense, mostly serve as access points to the status of EU citizenship. Besides, they
provide their owners with a limited number of specif‌ic rights in deviation from the general
principle of non-discrimination on the basis of nationality, and—what is probably more
important for the majority of their owners—trigger legalised discrimination in the wholly
internal situations. Viewed in this light, the requirement to have only one Member State’s
nationality enforced in national law by 10 Member States seems totally outdated and
misplaced. This paper focuses on the legal analysis of this controversial requirement.
I Introduction
Giving up your previous nationality is an imperative part of the naturalisation proce-
dure in 10 Member States of the European Union (EU).1While justif‌iable from the
point of view of national, as well as international law, such a requirement potentially
sits uneasily next to the concept of European citizenship and the idea of an ever-closer
Union the Member States are striving to build.2Assessment of the requirement to give
up one’s previous Member State nationality when naturalising in the Member State of
residence in the light of the growing importance of European Citizenship provides an
* Associate Professor of EU Law, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.
1These are The Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands,
Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. See the materials available at the EUDO citizenship project page,
including detailed country by country reports, See also Gerard-René de Groot
and Maarten Vink, Meervoudige nationaliteit in Europees perspectief: Een landenvergelijkend overzicht
(Adviescommissie voor Vreemdelingenzaken, 2008); Maarten Vink and Gerard-René de Groot, ‘Citizen-
ship Attribution in Western Europe: International Framework and Domestic Trends’, (2010) 36 Journal
of Ethnic and Migration Studies 713 (for an overview of citizenship laws in Western European states).
André Liebich, ‘Plural Citizenship in Post-Communist States’, (2000) 12 International Journal of Refugee
Law 97 (for an overview of the situation in Eastern Europe). On the general context of dual nationality
in the EU, see Marc Morjé Howard, ‘Variation in Dual Citizenship Policies in the Countries of the EU’,
(2005) 39 International Migration Review 697, esp. table 4, at 713. Virtually in all the countries listed,
certain exceptions apply, providing fractions of newly naturalised citizens with a possibility to retain their
previous nationality.
2This article thus sides with Evans in condemning this requirement: Andrew Evans, ‘Nationality Law and
European Integration’, (1991) 16 European Law Review 190, at 193. It is surprising that this important
issue has received so little scholarly attention in the recent decades.
European Law Journal, Vol. 17, No. 3, May 2011, pp. 323–343.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ, UK
and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA
excellent context to address a broader issue of EU citizenship—Member State nation-
alities interaction.3
Building on the fast-growing literature analysing citizenship in the context of glo-
balisation,4this article will place the requirement of renunciation of the original nation-
ality in the general context of the weakening of the legal meaning of ‘thick’
understandings of nationality, which amplif‌ies the nonsensical nature of the require-
ment in question. Addressing the problems inherent in the renunciation requirement,
this paper will illustrate the general process of the rise to prominence of EU citizenship
and the relative decline in importance (legally speaking) of the nationalities of the
Member States, which is likely to change Europe fundamentally in the near future. It
is high time to acknowledge, fully, that ‘single market [has] an effect on the lives of the
people,’5and try to solve the problems arising in this context in a just and fair manner.
The requirement to give up previous Member State’s nationality potentially hinders
the integration of European citizens into the society of the Member States other than
their own, and is a barrier on the way of wider political inclusion of EU citizens benef‌iting
from virtually all other nationality rights on equal footing with those EU citizens who
possess the local nationality. While this requirement has an obvious deterrent effect on
the naturalisation,6it also fails to achieve any identif‌iable goals. European citizens
residing in the Member State other than their Member State of nationality are not simply
‘foreigners.’ The powers of the Member State of residence to discriminate against
such people or deport them have been diminishing at an increasing pace during the
last decades: the Member States and the Court of Justice (ECJ), acting together with
other Institutions of the EU, gave EU citizenship a clear and identif‌iable scope.7This
3For analysis see Dimitry Kochenov, Rounding Up the Circle: The Mutation of Member States’ Nation-
alities under Pressure from EU Citizenship, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Working Paper
RSCAS 2010/23 (2010).
4Linda Bosniak, ‘Citizenship Denationalized’, (2000) 7 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 447. See
also Mikko Kuisma, ‘Rights or Privileges? The Challenge of Globalization to the Values of Citizenship’,
(2008) 12 Citizenship Studies 613; Martin Wolf, ‘Will the Nation-State Survive Globalization?’, (2001) 81
Foreign Affairs 178; Kim Rubinstein and Daniel Adler, ‘International Citizenship: The Future of Nation-
ality in a Globalised World’, (2000) 7 Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 519; Ronnie D. Lipschutz,
‘Members Only? Citizenship and Civic Virtue in a Time of Globalization’, (1999) 36 International Politics
5Gordon Slynn, Introducing a European Legal Order (Stevens and Sons and Maxwell, 1992) 85.
6Ruth Rubio-Marín, ‘Transnational Politics and the Democratic Nation-State: Normative Challenges of
Expatriate Voting and Nationality Retention of Emigrants’ (2006) 81 NYU Law Review 117, at 138. There
is a general consensus in the literature that the requirement to give up previous nationality at naturali-
sation is an important disincentive.
7For a very informative analysis of this process see Ferdinand Wollenschlager, ‘A New Fundamental
Freedom beyond Market Integration: Union Citizenship and its Dynamics for Shifting the Economic
Paradigm of European Integration’, (2011) 17 European Law Journal 1. See also Gareth Davies, ‘EU
Citizenship’, in Damian Chalmers, Gareth Davies and Georgio Monti, European Union Law: Text and
Materials (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 439; Dimitry Kochenov, ‘Ius Tractum of Many Faces:
European Citizenship and a Diff‌icult Relationship between Status and Rights’, (2009) 15 Columbia
Journal of European Law 169, at 193; Dora Kostakopoulou, ‘Ideas, Norms and European Citizenship:
Explaining Institutional Change’, (2005) 68 Modern Law Review 233, at 244–261. See also Matthew J.
Elsmore and Peter Starup, ‘Union Citizenship—Background, Jurisprudence, and Perspective: The Past,
Present, and Future of Law and Policy’, (2007) 26 Yearbook of European Law 57; Francis G. Jacobs,
‘Citizenship of the European Union—A Legal Analysis’, (2007) 13 European Law Journal 591; Stefan
Kadelbach, ‘Union Citizenship’, in Armin von Bogdandy and Jürgen Bast (eds), Principles of European
Constitutional Law (Hart, 2006), 453; Anne Pieter van der Mei, ‘Union Citizenship and the “De-
Nationalisation” of the Territorial Welfare State’, (2005) 7 European Journal of Migration and Law 210.
European Law Journal Volume 17
324 © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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