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.
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.