Prof. Dr. Gerard–René de Groot: Towards a Toolbox for Nationality Legislation

The Peace Palace Library reports about the upcoming farewell seminar ofProf. Dr. Gerard–René de Groot (

‘From 13 to 14 October Prof. Dr. Gerard–René de Groot will host his farewell  seminar on the ”Future of nationality law” at Maastricht University. In this seminar specialists in the field of nationality law will discuss how academia and civil society can best collaborate in the fight to eradicate statelessness.

With whole populations adrift, nationality and citizenship today are critically important to gain admittance in a state. Nationality is in fact commonly regarded as an inalienable right of every human being. Thus, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states that “everyone has the right to a nationality” and that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality.” Nationality is of cardinal importance because it is mainly through nationality that the individual comes within the scope of international law and has access to the political and economic rights and privileges conferred by modern states on their nationals.

The state, through constitutional and statutory provisions, sets the criteria for determining who shall be its nationals. While nationality law has traditionally been part of the nation-state’s “reserved domain”, recent decades have witnessed a growing body of international standards and guidelines in this area.  In light of the international standards which were developed in the past forty years the main questions that are met in the seminar are; how much freedom do states still enjoy when regulating their nationality law; which alternatives can they choose from and what are the advantages and disadvantages of options available to them?

In his valedictory lecture Prof. de Groot proposes a new research project that should result in a toolbox for nationality legislation. First of all, the toolbox should describe all possible grounds of acquisition and loss of nationality from the relevant international standards. Subsequently, it should indicate how much room is left for States to create their own rules, what choices have to be made and the consequences that the different choices entail.  National rules have to be assessed in light of international standards. The assessment should not only include a critical analysis of the law, but also the implementation in practice. For example, if a country makes a choice in favour of a rule that all children born on the territory acquire the nationality of the country (ius soli), there is no need for a default rule facilitating the access to the nationality of the country of birth for otherwise stateless children.  In other cases, the choice may have consequences beyond nationality law: for example deprivation of nationality because of terrorist activities may reduce the international criminal jurisdiction of the country involved.

The toolbox thus purports to consolidate the existing international standards in an accessible way and to facilitate the debate between nationality law policy makers, academia and civil society in the ongoing fight against statelessness.

On the website of the Peace Palace Library you can find a link to a selective bibliography from materials available in the Peace Palace on Nationality and Citizenship in International Law.’