Jean-Claude Juncker says British EU staff should be Belgians after Brexit | News | DW | 03.05.2018
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Jean-Claude Juncker says British EU staff should be Belgians after Brexit

Nearly 1,000 EU staffers with British citizenship are set to lose their EU rights after Brexit. The head of the bloc's executive arm thinks Belgium would be smart to grant Belgian citizenship to those who want it.

Belgium should show "generosity" to British employees of the European Union who want to become Belgian citizens after the United Kingdom leaves the bloc, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel on Thursday.

During a debate in the European Parliament in Brussels, the Belgian capital, Juncker praised the country's "great hospitality and generosity" in hosting EU offices.

"I would also like the Belgian authorities to demonstrate the same generosity when it comes to conferring Belgian nationality on the British officials who are here in Brussels," he added.

Read more: Juncker: EU hopes UK will rejoin bloc after Brexit

'They deserve it'

The nearly 1,000 British nationals working at the 32,000-strong Commission are set to lose their EU citizenship when Brexit occurs in March 2019. Juncker promised in April that British officials will still keep their jobs after that date.

Speaking in the European Parliament, Juncker said of British staffers seeking Belgian citizenship: "They deserve it. They deserve it." He added that Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, who was also in the parliament, "is sometimes extremely generous."

Michel said in reply that he was "happy that Belgian citizenship is so attractive," but added that it was difficult for Belgian authorities to tackle citizenship applications amid "contradictory jurisprudence."

Read more: Amsterdam court to rule on whether Brits retain EU citizenship

Belgium is on it

Belgium allows foreigners to apply for citizenship after five years of living in the country. But authorities have dismissed some applications by British EU officials who have met that criteria because EU staffers are considered quasi-diplomats under Belgian tax laws.

Michel nonetheless assured Juncker that his government would look into the issue.

Read more: Brexit survival guide for Brits in Europe

amp/sms(AP, Reuters, dpa)

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