Tjebbes in Wonderland: On European Citizenship, Nationality and Fundamental Rights

Unlike Alice, the Dutch-Canadian national, Tjebbes, did not fall down a rabbit hole, shrink and grow into different sizes, nor did she have tea with the Mad Hatter. However, a similar feeling to that experienced by Alice, when a status is revoked overnight, and when one has lost one’s nationality, without any warning or notification whatsoever, might be what the claimants experienced when they applied for their Dutch passports and heard they had not been Dutch nationals for quite some time. Interestingly enough, this case concerned individuals who relied upon their status as EU citizens in order to keep their national citizenship and so, whereas EU citizenship is, sometimes, perceived as a threat to national identity, in this case EU citizenship was invoked by the applicants to protect their nationality and national identity. In the case of Tjebbes the Dutch Nationality Act, which provides that Dutch nationality ceases to exist by operation of law under certain circumstances, was the centre of discussion, because the applicants not only lost their Dutch nationality, but also their EU citizenship status, and the rights attached to that status. Tjebbes is interesting because it confirmed a broad reading of the previous case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (the Court) on nationality and because the Court applied a specific proportionality test. First, the author discusses the factual background, after which she analyses the judgment of the Court. In the subsequent comments, she further examins some significant points of Tjebbes.

Hanneke Van Eijken, Tjebbes in Wonderland: On European Citizenship, Nationality and Fundamental Rights: ECJ 12 March 2019, Case C-221/17, M.G. Tjebbes and others v Minister van Buitenlandse Zaken, ECLI:EU:C:2019:189, European Constitutional Law Review, 2020.