Danish citizens will soon be able to hold dual nationality if new policies presented by the coalition government become a reality.
It is currently not possible for Danes to obtain a second nationality without first relinquishing their Danish passports. And foreigners wanting a Danish passport have to give up their original citizenship in order to obtain it.
“Denmark is a modern society in an international world. It should therefore be possible to have dual citizenship,” stated the common governmental policy released last week.
Despite dual nationality holding wide political support, efforts to introduce it during the last government’s term were scuppered due to opposition from the Danish People’s Party (DF), according to Information newspaper. One of its politicians, the recently-retired Søren Krarup, called it “bigamy”.
“You can only have one nationality just as you can only have one identity,” he said after a proposal from the Liberal Alliance was shot down by parliament in 2009.
The current government believes otherwise, however, and looks set to open up the possibility of dual nationality – something expat organisation Danes Worldwide has long campaigned for.
According to its general secretary, Anne Marie Dalgaard, overseas-based Danes face many obstacles due to not being able to take on the citizenship of the countries in which they have settled in.
“They are not able to obtain the same job or credit opportunities, become board members, be active in political spheres, and may be worse-placed in cases of inheritance because they cannot take dual citizenship,” Dalgaard told The Copenhagen Post. “These are daily problems and are about wanting to be fully involved in the society in which you are living.”
Tina Thuesen and her family are familiar with these obstacles. Originally from Denmark, she and her husband moved to Switzerland 20 years ago to find work. Together they have three children, two of whom were born in Switzerland and one in Denmark.
“I almost started crying when I found out [about the proposal] because I know I’ll be much more secure,” Thuesen told The Copenhagen Post. “If I get a Swiss passport they can’t throw me out of Switzerland. And for most people living abroad, this is very important because it means you are now a part of society under law. That’s the most emotional part of it – I can be a legal member of society and they can’t kick me out!”
The security is particularly important for Thuesen’s children who will be able to build lives in both Denmark and Switzerland. Swiss citizenship will also enable Thuesen to become politically involved in the country in which she’s lived for the past 20 years.
Thuesen has been campaigning for dual citizenship through the website statsborger.dk. She believes it is possible to call two places home.
“Of course you can have loyalty to two countries, just like you can have loyalty to two children. I’m a big enough person to be able to have positive feelings towards more than one place or person,” she argued.
Dalgaard used a similar metaphor, saying that having dual citizenship is like loving your mum and dad – it is not mutually exclusive. And according to Dalgaard, the former government’s opposition to Danes taking dual citizenship and integrating while abroad was hypocritical.
“We expect foreigners coming here to integrate, but we prevent our citizens from doing it when they live abroad – it’s a double standard,” she said.
The rule change would also be welcomed by foreigners who now call Denmark home – one of whom is Larry Feinberg, who moved to Denmark from the United States 25 years ago. A member of Democrats Abroad, a US-based organisation for American Democrats living overseas, Feinberg has fulfilled all the requirements to become a Danish citizen – having passed the citizenship test and the language requirement – but refuses to give up his American passport to do so.
“Dual citizenship is important for people who have been living here a long time without the right to vote, despite paying taxes. I believe the right to vote is important,” he told The Copenhagen Post, adding that only citizenship in Denmark will give him true security. “I might have permanent residency, but it’s only as permanent as the rules are – if they change we could be deported.”
Dual citizenship might be some time coming, however. A majority of MPs voted against the proposal in 2009 despite the signatures of 10,000 Danes living abroad who demanded it. Even if it were to pass, an immigration lawyer contacted by The Post, estimated it may take up to five years to be fully approved.
Should it pass, however, Denmark would be joining a growing group of EU member states that allow dual citizenship. Twenty of the 27 EU countries allow for dual nationality. The most recent to join the club was Belgium in 2008, while Sweden joined in 2001.
If Denmark does follow suit, those longing for dual nationality feel the country will have accepted that the reality of identity and citizenship are subtler than the current rules acknowledge and that in a globalised world people are increasingly straddling more than one country or culture. And perhaps Denmark would get more out of its citizens if it promoted involvement and inclusion in society – wherever one might be – instead of forcing them to choose sides, a decision many find heart-breakingly difficult to do.