Dual Nationality in the Netherlands – For once I understand Geert Wilders

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

Dual Nationality
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.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I think what the government want to avoid is double nationality for Turkish people. No state want to handle foreign people with papers. Last year government forbid access to a Turkish minister and Rotterdam was covered with protesters against Dutch government and carrying turkish flags by “Dutchies”.

  2. Does holding a passport mean all ties of an individual belong to that country? Can you be sure of that? In the same sense, in times of war, can you trust a naturalized commander? What difference does it make if your comrade is naturalized or they hold dual passport? Do you trust a small book with your life?

    If you are afraid of conflict of interest then no such people should be assigned in public service. But doing so is illegal and racist, let’s then rephrase it as people holding several citizenship.

    Any country who favors Jus sanguinis (pretty much all world) can grant citizenship to people with their descent. In a globalized world where people have multi-national parents and grandparents, is it really an issue? If one will spy or abuse another country, holding a dual passport publicly is probably the dumbest mistake one can do.

    I’m sorry but your argument is invalid. You may go straight and say “I support Wilders on this case” but not with these arguments.

  3. I think this article vividly demonstrates why nationalism is an outdated and dangerous concept. The assumptions in this article concerning “who to fight for” and “what rights” one should have is founded on the ideas that 1) nationalism is inevitable and 2) that the only way to demonstrate loyalty is through war, money, and political conformity. In a globalized world, what does this mean? Why does that even make sense?

    If the Netherlands wants complex, globally-minded and mobile citizens, then it is a good idea to reconsider its stance on dual nationalism. The Dutch people say they are liberal and tolerant of others, but their stance on citizenship belies a fundamental “us-vs-them” policy and cultural bias. It is as though the Netherlands wants to retain the right to create second-class citizens and impose loyalty in a very outmoded way. It also complicates the status of its citizens abroad.

  4. I think children from parents with different nationalities should have the option to have both. Should they get married and settle down that should be enough proof where their loyalbility lies

  5. You talk about citizenship as if it necessarily defines the way a certain group of people should live. Just because someone is a citizen of state X, doesn’t mean that they will support the state X in an imaginary future war. They might support state Y regardless of whether they are its citizens as well.

    You also assume a whole group of people will want to support anyone at any war. In most free and progressive countries in the world, individuals are and should be free to make the choice themselves. Do you disagree?

    If people choose to move somewhere else and make life easier for themselves in that country by obtaining citizenship, that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to sever the connection to their country of origin, that they should not be allowed to go back one day, and benefit from their rights and fulfil the obligations as defined by laws of both countries.

    In fact, many countries (Australia for example) actively encourage multiple citizenships because it’s beneficial both directly with the increased trade and cash flow, and indirectly with the exchange of knowledge and ideas.

    Just because you believe that people should eventually decide where they belong just because you were able to do it, that doesn’t mean your way of thinking applies to everyone. Everyone is different and that’s a positive thing. The feeling of belonging somewhere is a complex matter, and wrapping legal constructs like citizenship around that doesn’t really make sense.

    If you don’t want to have dual citizenship, then don’t get it. But there’s very little reason to try to stop others who do.

  6. The author said: “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”.

    No, this *US* soldier was probably folding the *US* flag.

    Because the United States is not the only country in America, and people in the US need to stop appropriating the name and demonym of the entire continent. 🙂

  7. Let’s start from the belief that the nationality, a legal construct, has the magic power to identify, without any uncertainty, whether a person is “loyal” to the government associated to such nationality. It is preposterous to claim that nationality implies loyalty and that loyalty requires formal nationality.
    The absurdity of the assumption is patently: the vast majority of people acquire their nationality when they are barely aware of being alive and, if it’s their only one, they will never lose it even if they act in the most disloyal way possible.
    With regard to acquiring a nationality later in life, the naturalisation process cannot probe the mind and intentions of a person in order to assess whether someone is truly “loyal”. What the naturalisation process does is to try to check whether the conditions that make a person very likely to be a good citizen are satisfied. Naturalisation is about the way someone relates to the society of which they are asking to be formally recognised as members. Naturalisation does not assess the yearning for war or probe the expectation that a citizen will obey the government in whatever war.
    What Somaye Dehban is seeking is the assurance that Dutch nationals will go and kill foreigners when ordered to. It is not loyalty, it is uncritical obedience.
    I have to underline the bigotry of such position: the “coming” war will be right and opposition to it will mark the “disloyal” individuals. No room for moral question or dissenting opinion is allowed.
    Somaye Dehban pretends to have derived her assumption about inevitability of war from history. Well, let’s have a proper look at WW2 history then: are we really supposed to despise and distrust the partisans who, despite having Italian or French or other nationality, organised themselves in order to fight against the military forces controlled by the government in charge at the time?
    And how does “loyalty” works in conflicts like the ones in Ukraine or Siria? Does the single nationality of the people involved lead to a clear diaplay of “loyalty”?
    Somaye Dehban’s oversimplified view of the world exposes an inability to appreciate the complexity and richness of real life in a civilised society. Her limitations in understanding the everyday reality of other people leave her desperate for a crude criteria through which the world can be interpreted. Her idea of nationality is closer to one of a religion rather than a political construct: people are christened in a nationality and can be relied on only if they profess blind faith in only one nationality.

  8. Pffff…. a narrow minded opinion; black and white thinking and spreading fear. Just another opinion.
    Not we are full of naivite. This opinion maker is full of fear.

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