European Court of Justice Rules Loss of German Citizenship via Deceit when Originally having Another European Citizenship

When you acquire German citizenship per naturalization and that via deceit, can the German authorities retroactively renounce your naturalization and you so lose your previous European citizenship? The European Court of Justice gave final clarity to this issue with its judgment of March 2, 2010 (re C 135/08).


Dr. Rottmann, having had Austrian citizenship, was naturalized as a German in 1998. After being sentenced in the criminal court of Graz, Austria, on account of suspected serious fraud on an occupational basis in the exercise of his profession, he transferred his residence to Munich, Germany in 1995. In 1997, the criminal court Graz issued a national warrant for his arrest. During the naturalization procedure, he failed to mention the criminal proceedings against him in Austria. In August 1999, the city of Munich was informed by the municipal authorities of Graz that a warrant for Dr. Rottmann's arrest had been issued in Graz. Furthermore, in September 1999 the Austrian public prosecutor's office informed the city of Munich, inter alia, that the applicant in the main proceedings had already been sentenced in 1995.

The State of Bavaria withdrew the naturalization with retroactive effect, on the grounds that he had not disclosed the fact that he was the subject of judicial investigation in Austria. In consequence thereof, he obtained German nationality by deception. Dr. Rottman appealed this decision.

One of the Dr. Rottmann's arguments was that he cannot be denaturalized because he would then become stateless. This would violate art. 16 GG, art. 3 European Convention on Nationality, art. 7 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, He also considered it contrary to European law, in particular to art. 17 EC, for a European citizen can become stateless when he loses citizenship.

The German government argues that when the decision withdrawing the naturalization of the applicant was adopted, the latter was a German national, living in Germany, to whom an administrative act by a German authority was addressed. The court held that this situation is a purely internal situation not in any way concerning European law. European law is not applicable simply because a Member State has adopted a measure in respect of one of its nationals. The fact that, in a situation such as here

The rights of art. 17 EC are not infringed when a person obtains citizenship by deceit when he is later denaturalized and therefore becomes stateless. Each and every country has the legitimate right to protect the unique relationship of solidarity and good faith between the nation and its nationals and also the reciprocity of rights and duties, which form the bedrock of the bond of nationality. None of the mentioned provisions prohibit a Member State from depriving a person of his nationality, even if he thus becomes stateless, when that nationality was acquired by means of fraudulent conduct, false information or concealment of any relevant fact attributable to that person.

Nevertheless, the national court is to determine whether the principle of proportionality requires the naturalized person can be given a reasonable period of time in order to try to recover the nationality of his Member State of origin.


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