(CN) – The EU’s highest court backed the Netherlands on Tuesday for declining to issue national passports to foreign nationals who have not lived in the EU for 10 years.
M.G. Tjebbes, the lead challenger in the case, was born in Canada and held from birth both Dutch and Canadian nationalities. A few months shy of her 19th birthday in 2003, Tjebbes was issued a Netherlands passport that expired five years later. She applied to the Netherlands Consulate in Calgary, Canada, for a new passport in 2014, but the minister of foreign affairs rejected her application without examination based on the Law on Netherlands Nationality.
Specifically Article 6(1)(f) of this statute states that “An adult shall lose his Netherlands nationality: … (c) if he also holds a foreign nationality and if, after attaining his majority and while holding both nationalities, he has his principal residence for an uninterrupted period of 10 years outside the Netherlands … and outside the territories to which the [EU Treaty] applies.”
Around the same time, the minister rejected the applications of the other three challengers, including one woman who is an Iranian national by birth and another woman, born in Switzerland, who acquired Netherlands nationality by birth through her mother, herself a dual national.
The fourth challenger has also been living in Switzerland since 1985, but was actually born in Hoorn, the Netherlands.
When the women challenged their passport denials, the Netherlands Council of State referred the matter the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
The Grand Chamber of the court upheld the Dutch law on Tuesday but did call out the minister for failing to make individual examinations, from the point of the view of EU law, of how the passport denials would affect the applicants.
“In a situation such as that at issue in the main proceedings, in which the loss of the nationality of a member state arises by operation of law and entails the loss of citizenship of the [European] Union, the competent national authorities and courts must be in a position to examine, as an ancillary issue, the consequences of the loss of that nationality and, where appropriate, to have the person concerned recover his or her nationality ex tunc in the context of an application by that person for a travel document or any other document showing his or her nationality,” the ruling states.
Among other things, the ruling continues, the national authorities must probe whether the loss of Netherlands nationality and EU citizenship would expose a person “to limitations when exercising his or her right to move and reside freely within the territory of the member states, including … particular difficulties in continuing to travel to the Netherlands or to another member state in order to retain genuine and regular links with members of his or her family, to pursue his or her professional activity or to undertake the necessary steps to pursue that activity.”
The ruling also highlights the possibility that the applicant “might not have been able to renounce the nationality of a third country,” and said authorities must consider whether the passport determination will endanger their “safety or freedom to come and go.”