Dual nationality and the Dutch elections: candidate Eelco Keij from D66 explains
Most people who hold a Dutch passport are unaware of the strict conditions that come with it. Unlike other countries in the EU, Austria and the Netherlands are the only two that do not currently allow dual nationality.
In a globalised world, where work migration and expat culture is becoming increasingly popular, laws regarding nationality in the Netherlands can come across as rather limiting for some.
Eelco Keij of political party D66, who is running for a seat in the House of Representatives (de Tweede Kamer) in the upcoming March 15, 2017 election, explains why.
Who is Eelco Keij
Eelco Keij has been active in politics his entire career, and is a non-profit fundraiser by profession. He has lived abroad for many years, 10 of which were spent in New York, where he met his American wife.
During his time there, he also became a US citizen, and discovered that attaining dual nationality for most Dutch abroad can prove to be extremely difficult based on an archaic Dutch law, which states that when one voluntarily adopts a second nationality, the first (Dutch) nationality will automatically be lost.
Over the course of five years, Eelco discovered many other issues faced by Dutch expats abroad, that those living in the Netherlands are unaffected by.
Eelco thus began his political journey with an online petition calling for the relaxation of Dutch dual citizenship laws that drew over 26.000 signatures from Dutch expats abroad, and was able to attract attention from not only the Dutch press, but also political parties.
For this reason, Eelco has decided to run for a place in the House of Representatives with political party D66. He is, until now, the only candidate lobbying for the rights of Dutch people living abroad, as well as expats in the Netherlands considering naturalization.
He will need 16.000 preferential votes to get his seat, regardless of how many D66 get.
The International Dutch Campaign
There are over one million Dutch living outside of the Netherlands, which amounts to about 6 percent of the entire population, yet the Dutch political system in The Hague does little to recognise them. In fact, on various issues The Hague has actively worked against them.
In response, Eelco Keij has formed a campaign entitled The International Dutch Campaign (Internationale Nederlanders Campagne) in order to address the rights of four main target groups.
› Dutch nationals abroad
The first group are Dutch nationals working abroad across various fields in many different countries. Many of them are married or live with non-Dutch partners ("mixed international families").
› Families in the Netherlands
The second group applies to similar families who have returned to the Netherlands from a different country, or those that have simply formed their families whilst living in the Netherlands.
› Friends and relatives
The third group are Dutch friends and relatives, living in the Netherlands, that are indirectly affected by the current Dutch legislation regarding Dutch living abroad. Think of parents that fall sick, and then their children - unknowingly having lost their Dutch citizenship - find out they can only go back to their home country for a maximum of 3 months to take care of their parents.
› Internationally-minded Dutch
The last group are, of course, Dutch people in the Netherland whose lives resemble those who think and act internationally. For example, their work might take them across borders, and they may value cross-cultural exchange.
These four groups make up what Eelco calls the "Internationale Nederlanders".
It is worth noting that even Dutch citizens who currently hold dual-nationality and live outside the EU, could unexpectedly lose their Dutch citizenship. If they do not renew their passports in time, the Dutch State regards this as implicit consent to give up citizenship: again, automatic, immediate and without warning.
Difficulties faced by Dutch expats abroad
Over the past four years, the current PvdA-VVD government has taken various measures that have negatively impacted Dutch citizens living abroad, even if indirectly.
For example, they have downsized consulates and embassies making it more difficult or even financially unviable for people to obtain or renew their passports.
They have also greatly reduced the number of subsidies that provide for example, language courses to the children of Dutch families abroad.
A recent report and proposal from the National Ombudsman to work out some kind of repatriation system for all the Dutch who had involuntarily lost their Dutch citizenship, was swiftly and briskly dismissed.
Most notably however, voting has remained a lot more difficult from abroad than from within the Netherlands.
Voting from abroad
Despite the efficiency of the internet, a Dutch national hoping to vote from abroad must register and decide on their vote far in advance, repeating their registration with each new election, and oftentimes before the most interesting political debates have been aired.
Furthermore, they have to send in the ballot by post, which depends on the efficiency of a country’s national postal service. They could quite easily experience delays, or sometimes, the ballot may not even arrive at all.
This often also poses a risk when the ballot needs to be "in" by election day, this year occurring on March 15, either in The Hague or at the nearest embassy. Worse yet, there is no way of knowing whether your vote has actually arrived and been counted.
One nationality only
Furthermore, the current Dutch government in the Netherlands has restated their preference for the "one nationality" policy, despite being the only one in the EU, with the exception of Austria.
In December 2016, Eelco managed to successfully help a Dutch woman out of Egypt. She had let her Dutch passport expire, and coincidentally, also her visa, when her sister passed away. The consulate refused to renew her passport, until she could prove that she had not adopted Egyptian citizenship.
It was only after Eelco communicated on her behalf with the Dutch ambassador, that the consulate issued her an emergency passport to return to the Netherlands, purely on humanitarian grounds. While it was too late for the funeral, she was immensely happy to finally be able to see her parents.
The added value of expats
In his book entitled "Kapitale Connecties" (Capital Connections) Eelco shows that it is in the interest of the Netherlands itself to spend more time and resources on Dutch citizens living abroad.
Through conducting international research, Eelco proves that there is a strong correlation between where the Dutch abroad live geographically, and the international revenues that flow back to the Netherlands.
It means that the Dutch abroad are of added economic value to the Netherlands, which is often true for huge groups of migrants related to their home country. This shows that cutting them out is economically disadvantageous to the Netherlands.
Many countries in the European Union already recognise this and have built up political structures that keeps these citizens close to them, varying from advisory councils to even parliamentary seats. For example, in France, you can occupy a seat in parliament even if you don't live in the country anymore.
Register to vote before February 1, 2017
The deadline to register to vote for the March 15 election is approaching fast: February 1, midnight, Dutch time. If you don’t register on time, you will not be able to vote at any of the upcoming elections.
Raising awareness about expat rights
Eelco’s campaign has the support of more than 25 volunteers, from nine different countries, many of whom are convinced that the changes he is proposing will actually impact their own lives. In the course of the past two months donations from all over the world, big or small, have come pouring in.
"Each month I come across new issues," Eelco states. "If you are ignored, it may be annoying. But if politicians are actively devising policies against you - then it's time for action. That time is now."
You can learn more about Eelco Keij’s political policies on his website, including his 10 point summary.
Photo © Chris Aalberts