NWW’s political fight

NGO Norwegians Worldwide turns 110 this summer; reflects on history and the dual citizenship cause

Photo: Nordmanns Forbundet / The Local
Hanne K. Aaberg, secretary general of NWW.

Michael Barrett
The Local

Norwegians Worldwide, which serves to promote Norwegian culture, values, and society, as well as the rights of foreign-based Norwegians, celebrates its 110th birthday this week.

But the issue of dual citizenship has seen the organization increasingly act as an interest group, says its general secretary.

“We’ve been around 110 years now, so it’s natural enough to change in a way that keeps you relevant,” Hanne K. Aaberg, general secretary of Norwegians Worldwide (Nordmanns Forbundet), told The Local.

The organization, which was founded in 1907, has primarily focused throughout its history on promoting Norwegian culture and values abroad but has engaged itself increasingly in what it sees as “an issue that must be taken seriously,” Aaberg said.

An anniversary meeting to be held this week by Norwegians Worldwide will set out to further bring the issue into the public consciousness, with talks by both expat Norwegians and long-term Norway-based foreign residents.

“First and foremost it will actually be a celebration of our 110 years as an organization. But we have chosen to focus on an issue that touches many of our members—the many Norwegians who live and work abroad,” the general secretary said.

It is just as important for foreign nationals living in Norway to engage in the debate as it is for Norwegians in other countries, says Aaberg.

“One of our speakers is a British citizen who has lived here for 56 years. Of course she is engaged in Norwegian society but still feels British to an extent and would find it difficult to give up her passport. We have chosen representatives of both situations to give talks at the event. It is important that everyone is engaged,” she said.

Norwegians living abroad currently stand to lose their Norwegian passports—and thereby the right to live and work in Norway—if they take up a second citizenship.

But not taking up citizenships in countries of residence can potentially cause problems in areas such as work permits and rights to education in those countries.

In March this year, Norway’s Conservative (Høyre) party, the largest party in the governing coalition, voted at its annual conference in favor of a proposal to allow dual citizenship in the country.

The opposition Labor Party (Arbeiderpartiet) has so far not taken a definite stance on the issue, citing that it wants to see a justice department review first.

While the populist co-governing Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) also voted in support of the law change at its conference, it delayed putting the issue to parliament until after Norway’s September 11 general election.

Aaberg says that the issues of terrorism and immigration are often associated with dual citizenship but that this was a misconception that should not derail the debate and that a change in the law on dual citizenship will provide consistency and clarity.

Norwegian law does in fact already contain several loopholes that allow foreign nationals to obtain dual citizenship—but citizens of Western countries are vary rarely able to obtain citizenship this way.

“Of all the people that became Norwegian last year, around 50-60 percent kept their original citizenship. But it’s almost arbitrary who is and who isn’t able to do this,” Aaberg said.

This article was originally published on The Local.

It also appeared in the June 30, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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