Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The double last name backfires !

It was exactly a year ago, right before Zeno was born, that I was pondering if I should have jumped on the opportunity to add my last name to my sons, as the French law just changed to allow that. Your comments and shared experiences on the topic helped me substantiating my gut feeling, and right before the deadline expired, I decided to go for it. In the meantime, for every day life, I have been using mainly the Belgianite’s last name (for the kids’ doctor appointment, etc.), just as I thought. Milo’s application for his kindergarden is the first official document showcasing the double last name, and I haven’t had the slightest trouble fitting both in.

But the unthinkable just happened: as I realized that my passeport is about to expire, I asked the Belgianite to add the children on his passport as well, just to be on the safe side for summer travel. And then we smacked against the fantastic wall of pan-European legal discrepancies: the double last names are not legally recognized in Belgium! An operator at the Belgian embassy kindly offered the unbelievable piece of information:

from www.diplomatie.be

Conformément au Code de la Nationalité Belge, "est Belge l'enfant né à l'étranger :
d'un auteur belge né en Belgique ;

"Double nom"

La possibilité prévue par la loi française de choisir, pour l'enfant, le nom de la mère, du père ou celui de ses deux parents n'existe pas en droit belge.

Le fonctionnaire d'état civil français doit appliquer la loi belge en matière de nom de l'enfant.

Si l'un des parents est français et transmet sa nationalité à l'enfant, il sera possible de choisir le nom de famille dans l'acte de naissance. Cependant, ce nom ne sera pas reconnu selon la loi belge s'il n'est pas conforme aux règles du code civil belge. L'enfant portera alors deux noms différents selon sa nationalité. Ceci posera des problèmes tôt ou tard, puisque le nom sur les documents belges sera différent de celui sur l'acte de naissance et autres documents français.
A couple of days later I learnt that Italy as well does not recognize the double last name!
As Italy and Belgium allow multiple nationalities, the kids have both, but in theory we should need to issue a separate individual Italian and Belgian passeport for them with only the father’s last name (with all the potential risks of further confusion in creating another identity). And apparantly, it is all the 'fault' of the French clerks at the city hall, who should have known this (or at least checked on it) and should have forbid us to add my last name!

So, for the moment they stay on my passport, while we are hoping that the double last name regulation will be harmonized among European countries in a near future. I don't regret my choice, but I am afraid that the hassle has just begun...


Brikebrok said...

That's really a mess : my children ended up on having double identity !

santi said...

Yes I'm with you .... EU still needs to work hard in harmonizing their rules .. this kind of problem will just make us grow older each time!

Lilian said...

Oh dear, what a complicated situation to be in!! I hope both Belgium and Italy change their laws soon so there's no confusion in the future.
And I'm glad that we don't face the same problems with Brazil and the U.S. (there's no third country in our equation either! :)

Pluricultural Mum said...

There's been at least one case about this at the European Court of Justice: Case C-148/02 Carlos Garcia Avello v État belge (2003). That was a case in which the children had dual Belgian and Spanish nationality, but the Belgian authorities refused to recognise their double Spanish family name. It was a landmark case because it decided that they should be free to use their Spanish names even when living in Belgium. This is contrary to standard practice in international law which normally stipulates that the nationality -and therefore laws- of the country where a person is should prevail. Hence it marks a significant theoretical point in the development of the EU. However, I don't know if there've been cases like yours in which the children don't actually have the nationality of the country with different naming laws, but 'just' live there (and may have lived there since birth). In any case, Embassy employees and even government policy may well ignore such rulings for as long as they can get away with it, even though they're the highest level of EU law, way above national law in the specific areas where the member states have agreed that that's how they want things to be. So, if this is important for you, you may want to consider not just taking a no for a no, even when it comes black on white as in the text you quote (-:

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