Editorial | Beware the one-sided debate

Dual-citizenship hopefuls should pay attention to what’s not being said about them

This autumn, parliament will begin a process that, should the current political landscape remain unchanged, will result in Denmark dropping its restriction on dual citizenship. 

Dual citizenship has “problems”, according to Jan E Jørgensen, a spokesperson for Venstre, whose new-found support for the measure will be crucial to its passage. None of those problems, according to the party, are so great that they can’t be fixed though.

That’s an attitude dual citizenship hopefuls will be happy about. They should be concerned, however, that what those problems are remains unstated. Given the focus of the most recent discussions over dual citizenship, you get the sense that one of the problems might be that foreigners living here might be granted reasonable access to dual citizenship.

Given Venstre’s long-standing focus on integration and even “assimilation” of foreigners into Danish society, in the words of Søren Pind, another of the party’s MPs, it would stand to reason that Danes living abroad set a good example by wholeheartedly embracing their new cultures.

That such is not always the case should surprise few. Regardless of whether someone comes from Denmark or Djibouti, nationality is something few give up without careful considerations of whether the benefits outweigh the loss of identity associated with doing so. 

For Danes living abroad, this problem is compound. Most, even though they retain their citizenship, still cannot vote, due to a clause in the constitution restricting that right to citizens living inside the Kingdom of Denmark. 

These Danes have long pressed for this law to be changed, often casting mock ballots during general elections as a display of their disenfranchisement. But while their efforts appear to be about to pay off, it would seem that their plight has done little to draw attention to non-citizens living in Denmark.

Were this a perfectly fair world, foreign citizens looking to retain their nationality and become Danish would be able to rest assured that dual citizenship guarantees, which are afforded to Danes living abroad, would also apply to foreigners living in Denmark. 

Sadly, there is precedent to the contrary. Legislation passed in 2002 by the then-Venstre led government aimed at preventing forced marriages needed to be tooled in such a way that they avoided clearly targeting specific ethnic groups. This so-called 24-year rule is credited with reducing the number of forced marriages, but it had a side effect that meant that many young Danes were forced to live abroad with a foreign spouse they had married voluntarily. Corollaries to the rule – such as housing requirements and a collateral payment – sought to widen the needle’s eye, yet at the same time continuing to keep undesirable immigrant groups out. 

Dual-citizenship advocates have reason to hope, but before they start filling out their applications they would be wise to read the small print.