Dual nationality has been a political sticking-point in the Netherlands for years. Last year the new Dutch government flipped on its previously strict stance on dual citizenship, opening the possibility of Dutch nationals living abroad being able to retain their Dutch citizenship alongside another.
The debate rages on around the world – two senators in Australia have stepped down from government after their dual nationalities were revealed, starting a “full-blown, dual-nationality crisis,” and Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders has called for the resignation of a council member for holding dual Dutch-Turkish nationality, claiming it leads to a conflict of interest. And after the nomination of a Dutch-Swedish minister for home/internal-affairs, he called for “motie van wantrouwen”.
This might seem extreme – after all, why can’t someone’s citizenship reflect their heritage and current situation? But what happens when lines are drawn and choices have to be made? When it’s time for our “call of duty,” which side will you choose?
This thought took hold of me when visiting the Arlington Cemetery in US and meeting a healing American soldier who was just back from his “call of duty” – He was folding the American flag, the one that is used to cover the coffins of soldiers before being buried. While running my fingers through every embroidered line of that flag, all thirteen of them, I closely followed the patterns of the stars – the art of stitching at its best. I felt the contrast, the harmony, the embodiment of patriotism in a piece of cloth that symbolizes his “call of duty.”
Dual Nationality: A question etched in blood
After that experience, for the rest of the day – and perhaps for the rest of my life – I asked a question, over and over: who would you defend if we were to go to war? You – anyone and everyone with dual or multi nationality. How would you decide which side of the line you will stand on when our nations choose war over dialogue?
Don’t tell me that our countries will never go to war with each other – history immediately debunks your naivety. And don’t tell me you will never have to choose: you will, and you should.
The Dutch government has long held a strict stance on dual and multiple nationality, taking this decision out of the hands of the citizens. As the government website explains, “The Dutch government wants to limit dual nationality as much as possible. If you have only one nationality, it will be clear what your rights are. That is why people who want to acquire Dutch nationality through naturalisation are, as a rule, required to give up their other nationality if possible. This is called the renunciation requirement.”
In June 2017, the Dutch government ran a campaign to raise awareness of the risk of people losing Dutch citizenship when they apply for citizenship elsewhere. The move was met with anger: in our increasingly globalized world, people are no longer happy to renounce one citizenship for another; they want their status to reflect their multicultural lives.
22,000 people signed a petition asking the government to rethink its strict stance on dual nationality, to no avail. Prime Minister Mark Rutte responded, saying: “Countering dual nationality remains on of this cabinet’s policies. This is because having a nationality is always associated with an actual link to a certain country. ‘If at some point there is no question of a connection to the Netherlands or if the link to another country has become stronger than that with the Netherlands, Dutch nationality will end.”
But just months later, in October last year, Rutte’s newly-formed coalition government released a document outlining their potential shift on this issue: “The cabinet will prepare proposals for the modernisation of nationality law. It concerns an extension of the possibility of possession of multiple nationalities for prospective first generation emigrants and immigrants.”
Pandering to the people?
If this change goes through, the government will put the decision back into the hands of the citizens. But what impact might that have, when the lines are drawn? Would my British-Dutch colleagues protect the lowlands or the island? Would my Iranian-Dutch friends stand by the Dutch troops or guard their untouchable heritage – and perhaps undeclared investments in Iran? Would my Turkish-Dutch neighbor choose liberty over tradition? Would I ever feel safe in my home – in the Netherlands – next to anyone who has another nationality in addition to their Dutch nationality? The idea of it sends a chill down my spine.
We don’t want to make difficult decisions, especially when they are fundamentally based on our principles – principles that are less and less firmly defined as we live by the motto of “everything goes.” We usually inherit our nationality – it’s a vertical identity that people usually don’t try to change. When babies are born to parents of different nationalities, most states grant nationality of both parents to the newborn.
I believe there needs to be a moment in everyone’s life when they make a choice – to decide where they belong, to declare where their loyalty lies, to assert where they are local. Yes, you might argue that circumstances in which one gains a new nationality (like through marriage) change over time, but I believe you have to stand by the consequences of your decisions: you can’t simply have the best of all worlds, all the time.
And let’s not mistake dual or multi nationality with multiculturalism and diversity: you don’t need a country’s passport to understand and respect its culture and have an inclusive approach towards the people of that nation.
When the time comes, when it’s your “call of duty,” which side of the line will you be standing on?
So what are your thoughts on “Dual Nationality”? Don’t forget to share with us in the comments.