OPINION: Sweden’s emerging debate on dual citizenship is terrifying

When Richard Orange became a Swedish citizen after the UK's Brexit vote in 2016, he never doubted for an instant that he would be allowed to remain British. Now he's not so sure.

OPINION: Sweden's emerging debate on dual citizenship is terrifying
A citizenship ceremony at Stockholm town hall in 2017. Photo: Lars Pedersen/TT

The institution of dual citizenship is under attack in Sweden from both left and right. First, the parties backing the current government agreed that dual citizens who commit certain crimes should be able to have their Swedish citizenship stripped away. Now the veteran journalist Peter Kadhammar has asked whether allowing dual citizenship is even appropriate in today’s more conflict-ridden, less globalised world.

“Dual citizenship all sounds very nice in a world where we are all pushing for open borders,” he wrote in an article in the left-wing Aftonbladet newspaper. “But what about when times are harsher?”

“A person with dual citizenship,” he warns, “can be put under pressure to serve the regime in his or her other homeland.”

As well as questioning the loyalty of people like myself, Kadhammar also suggests that citizens of foreign governments could already be in place in all sorts of key positions without anyone even knowing about it.

The Swedish authorities, he warns, “have no record of which of our own citizens also has a duty towards countries like Turkey and Russia.”

“Not even the Säpo security police,” he adds, “have the faintest idea”.

For me, as a dual citizen, the logic of Kadhammar’s article is terrifying. Yes, he’s primarily talking about Swedes who are dual citizens of countries like China, Russia, Turkey or Iran – countries with which Sweden enjoys strained diplomatic relations, to put it mildly – but if dual citizenship ever becomes a subject for political debate in Sweden, I find it hard to see how a law could be framed to forbid dual citizenship for them alone.

Such a debate now doesn’t seem at all unrealistic.

The Tidö Agreement showed just how far the current coalition parties are willing to go to win the support of the far-right Sweden Democrats, and, while I’m not planning on committing any “system-threatening” crimes, the fact that under their proposals, I could lose my Swedish citizenship if I did, makes my citizenship worth a little less.

It’s worth remembering that the Sweden Democrats only dropped their call to abolish dual citizenship in Sweden as recently as 2019. It’s far from impossible that in the run-up the the 2026 election, the 2030 election, or 2034 election, they could take it up again. If, as Kadhammar warns, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine escalates into a full-scale European war, it could come sooner than that.

If I were forced to choose, with Britain out of the European Union, I would probably have to become fully and unambiguously Swedish, but in doing so I would lose a part of myself and I’m sure many Swedes with, say, Iraqi, Iranian, Turkish, Palestinian, or Afghan citizenship feel the same.

For those born and brought up abroad, shedding your original citizenship involves a painful loss of identity. Our children, many of whom are born in Sweden, probably wouldn’t be so concerned, but I would certainly want them to keep a tie to Britain. 

It’s not only us foreigners who would lose out. If Sweden were to abolish dual citizenship, it could prevent people from becoming Swedish citizens who might have enriched the country. In purely practical terms, it is an asset for Swedish businesses to have a set of citizens who can live and work elsewhere without having to get visas or work permits, who have a foot in two cultures.

Kadhammar argues that Sweden has a “remarkably careless approach” to dual citizenship, but this is not really true.

When The Local surveyed the dual citizenship rules in the countries where it has sites, Sweden hardly stood out.

Dual citizenship is permitted in France, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, Switzerland and the UK. Denmark and Norway passed laws allowing dual citizenship in 2015 and 2020 respectively, and Germany is planning to do so.

Kadhammar’s article may have forced the Centre Party’s new leader, Muharrem Demirok, to give up his Turkish citizenship (he claims he had already started the process). 

I think this is a shame, not least because no one raised a murmur when the party’s MP Nils Paarup-Petersen renewed his Danish citizenship recently, and few editorials have been written to express concern over Business and Energy Minister Ebba Busch’s Norwegian nationality.

The times may be, as Kadhammar suggests, getting harsher, but that shouldn’t make Sweden more closed. The longer we live here, the more Swedish we become, but please let us keep the link to our past that comes with dual citizenship.

Member comments

  1. China I’m told doesn’t allow dual citizenships. Some of my Chinese friends had to turn-in their Chinese citizenship when securing their new citizenships aboard. And I’m sure we could quickly draft up a long list including other countries that do not.

    Perhaps a solution is to limit dual citizenship with certain nations, but not others that are friendly with Sweden. This might be a reasonable approach.

  2. I hold both a GB&NI passport and an Irish passport, both countries allow “dual citizenship” which is actually and incorrect phrase as both countries allow multiple citizenship. Maybe there should be a limit?

    As for only allowing countries that are friendly, im sure a couple of years back Russia was seen as friendly. So what happens when they become unfriendly? What do you do to the people that entered the country and the “friendly point in time”.

    I always think, how big is the problem and how big would it be to create the solution be so is it worth it? The phrase… using a sledgehammer to crack a nut springs to mind.

  3. I left the UK after Brexit and have zero intentiob of going back.
    The Swedish passport is better for visa privileges and Sweden itself beats the UK in virtually every respect.
    If I had to chose then I know the one I’d lose. My wife and son are Swedish and now, so am I.
    Being so close to Russia and Belarus makes me determined to stay here and support Sweden’s values. It is the country I chose to come to and didn’t appear in by a chance of birth.

  4. Hi Ty,

    Thanks for responding. I guess one can always throw a spanner in the works by posing questions that at first appear difficult but are actually easy to answer. If a country were to transition from the “friendly list” to an unfriendly list, then Sweden could ask people holding citizenship in the recently unfriendly country to make a decision. Given them six or nine months to make a decision by forfeiting one citizenship (Swedish?) or the other (Russian in the case of your example). It’s not hard at all.
    Such terms could be part of a the new law. Easy.


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Sweden demands consular access to trial of Swedish diplomat held in Iran

Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billström called on Iran to grant the Swedish embassy access to the trial of Johan Floderus, an EU diplomate held in Iran for more than 600 days.

Sweden demands consular access to trial of Swedish diplomat held in Iran

Floderus, who works for the EU’s diplomatic service, was arrested on April 17th, 2022, at Tehran airport as he was returning to Iran from a trip with friends.

Tehran has accused the 33-year-old of conspiring with Iran’s arch-enemy Israel and of corruption on earth, one of Iran’s most serious offences which carries a maximum penalty of death.

“The important thing in this situation is to protect the interests of Johan Floderus and our top priority is to make sure that a Swedish person from the embassy is allowed to be present at the trial so we can make sure that he gets a fair trial,” Tobias Billström told reporters, as he arrived at an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels.

Billstrom said he was in contact with the Iranian regime to understand why the Swedish charge d’affaires in Tehran was not given access to the opening of the trial, and to “make sure that he would be allowed to attend when the trial resumes”.

Floderus’ trial opened on Saturday behind closed doors.

“It is worth noting that we consider all these charges unfounded and false, and we urge the Iranian regime to release Mr Floderus so he can be reunited with his family as soon as possible,” Billström said.

EU’s top foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called Sunday for his immediate release, saying “there are absolutely no grounds for keeping Johan Floderus in detention”.

The Swede is being held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

No date has been given for the resumption of his trial.