July 24, 2012 8:42 PM
THE HAGUE - Dutch citizens living abroad who adopt a new nationality must give up their Dutch nationality, although there are some exceptions. A group of Dutch expats finds that highly unfair and has been fighting for more than a year to get off the table the plans of the Dutch government to propose a law forbidding dual citizenship.
Similarly, foreigners who become Dutch citizens will have to give up their original citizenship.
The Dutch Council of Ministers approved early March this year a 2011 law proposal of former minister of home affairs and kingdom relations Piet Hein Donner prescribing that, among other things, a foreigner can obtain Dutch citizenship only if he or she has given up his or her other citizenship.
The law proposal, if approved by the Second Chamber, would apply to the overseas countries and territories of the Dutch Kingdom, as Dutch citizenship is an authority of The Netherlands. As such, The Netherlands sets the rules for all Dutch citizenship, including for those living in the Dutch Caribbean and other countries abroad.
The law proposal is in accordance with the 2010 governing accord of the Rutte cabinet and the past alliance with the Party for Freedom PVV. It was agreed to adapt the law that regulates Dutch citizenship (Rijkswet op het Nederlanderschap) making the requirements stricter for foreigners who want to acquire the Dutch nationality as well as for Dutch citizens who voluntarily want to adopt a second nationality.
According to the current law, the main rule is that Dutch citizens who acquire another nationality automatically lose their Dutch nationality. This is bad news for the large group of Dutch expatriates and emigrants living and working abroad in countries like the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
The 2011 law proposal of then-minister Donner seeks to eliminate the three existing exemptions for Dutch citizens to keep their Dutch nationality. These three exemptions that apply since April 2003 are: when a person is born and lives in the country of the second (foreign) nationality, when a person has lived in the country of the second (foreign) nationality for at least five years before the age of 18, and when a person is married to someone of the nationality that (s)he wishes to adopt.
The group of Dutch expats living abroad has won its first fight against the controversial passport law proposal of Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Liesbeth Spies because the exemptions for dual citizenship will not be annulled.
The Second Chamber adopted an amendment earlier this month initiated by the Democratic D66 party and supported by the green left party GroenLinks, the Labour Party PvdA, Christian Democratic Party CDA and the conservative VVD party to maintain the three exemptions for Dutch citizens abroad.
A new Second Chamber, after the September 12 elections, will decide what to do with the amended law proposal: approve or reject it in its entirety, or again submit amendments. Another option is that the Second Chamber will do nothing with the bill, effectively killing it. The Council of State has already given a negative advice on the law proposal.
A group of Dutch expats who initiated a worldwide petition in October 2011 requesting that the Second Chamber reject the law proposal against dual citizenship wants Dutch citizens abroad to let their voices be heard in the upcoming elections and to register before August 1. The group has developed a voting manual for expats and emigrants. Almost 25,000 persons have signed the petition on www.nederlanderblijven.nl so far.
Eelco Keij, candidate number 25 on the D66 slate, who lives and works in New York and is one of the initiative-takers of the petition, is campaigning actively for the expats' vote. Keij organised an American-style fundraiser last weekend to raise funds for his campaign. He hopes to acquire the 16,000 preferential votes that he needs to win a seat in the Second Chamber.
Referring to the adopted amendment of the Second Chamber, Keij said: "We may have won this battle, but we want more. We want the main rule that a Dutch citizen loses his or her Dutch nationality when adopting another nationality off the table." Keij said the basic concept was that double passports should be possible for all Dutch citizens, wherever they reside.
"Moreover, and unlike CDA and VVD, we want that every new Dutch citizen in The Netherlands should be able to hold on to the original nationality. Of course, everyone living in The Netherlands should participate in society, but you do not enforce that by taking away their passport. Also, for former Dutch citizens it should be made easier to regain their Dutch nationality," said Keij.
D66, PvdA and Groenlinks want to make dual citizenship possible. PvdA Member of Parliament Martijn van Dam presented a motion earlier this year to change the law on Dutch citizenship to eliminate the main rule: that a person automatically loses his or her Dutch nationality when voluntarily adopting another nationality. CDA, VVD and PVV are against this law change.
According to two Dutch lawyers in New York, Jan Joosten and Olav Haazen, who were invited to speak at a hearing with the Second Chamber's Permanent Committee for Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations late June 2012, the law affects Dutch citizens abroad disproportionately. "It is like firing on a mosquito with a cannon," said Joosten. Joosten and Haazen also said the main rule also violated international human rights, because the Dutch citizens in question lose their right to vote.
The lawyers said the law also was outdated, because nowadays emigration was not as definite as many years ago. "People want to come back to The Netherlands."
Joosten said it was "unnecessary and cruel" to sever the ties by taking away people's nationality, which in fact was their identity. "It also doesn't fit in a globalised world," he said. Joosten and Haazen pointed out that the number of Dutch citizens wanting to return to The Netherlands was twice as high as the number of foreigners applying for the Dutch nationality.
In the meantime, foreigners living in Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten who apply for Dutch citizenship at the Cabinet of the Governor are asked to sign a declaration that states that they may be asked to give up their original nationalities to become Dutch citizens.
Some countries don't allow a person to give up one's original nationality such as Argentina, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Mexico, Bangladesh and Morocco. Persons of these countries will be allowed to keep their original nationality when acquiring the Dutch nationality. Others have to give up their original nationality.