Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

Sporting Nationality: Remarks on the Relationship between the General Legal Nationality of a Person and His 'Sporting Nationality' *

Academic journal article The International Sports Law Journal

Sporting Nationality: Remarks on the Relationship between the General Legal Nationality of a Person and His 'Sporting Nationality' *

Article excerpt

1. Function and definition of nationality

Nationality is both in international and in national law an important connecting factor for the attribution of rights and duties to individual persons and States. Under international law States have e.g. the right to grant diplomatic protection to persons who possess their nationality (Donner 1983). Under national law the obligation to fulfil military service and the rights to become a member of parliament or to have high political functions are frequently linked to the possession of the nationality of the country involved. However, there is no standard list of duties and rights which normally are linked to the nationality of a State under national and international law (de Groot 1989, 13-15; Makarov 1962, 30, 31; Wiessner 1989). National States are in principle autonomous in their decision which rights and duties will be connected to the possession of nationality, whereas under international law the consequences of the possession of a nationality are also subject of discussion (van Panhuys 1959). In sports the possession of the nationality of a certain State is--inter alia--of paramount importance in order to be qualified to represent this State in international competitions between athletes (Van den Bogaert 2005, 321-389.).

Nationality can be defined as 'the legal bond between a person and a State'. This definition is, inter alia, given in Art. 2 (a) of the European Convention on Nationality (Strasbourg 1997). Art. 2 (a) immediately adds the words "and does not indicate the person's ethnic origin". In other words, nationality is a legal concept and not a sociological or ethnical concept. The nationality of a country in this legal sense (hereinafter: general legal nationality) is acquired or lost on the basis of a nationality statute (de Groot 1989, 10-12; Makarov 1962, 12-19). For example, a person possesses Netherlands nationality if he or she possesses this nationality by virtue of the general Netherlands nationality statute, i.e. the 1984 Rijkswet op het Nederlanderschap or other relevant legislation, rules of implementation, case law and legal practice.

2. The term 'nationality'

The word 'nationality' is etymologically derived from the Latin word 'natio' (nation). A difficulty is that 'nation' can nowadays be used as a synonym for 'State', but also in order to refer to a 'people' in a sociological or ethnical sense. In the context of international and national law the word 'nationality' refers to the legal bond with the 'nation' as State, but in many languages words etymologically related to nationality are (or can be) used for the indication of the ethnicity of persons (e.g. 'Nationalitat' in the German language) (de Groot 2003b, 6-10).

A second difficulty is the relationship between the concepts 'nationality' and 'citizenship'. 'Nationality' expresses a person's legal bond with a particular State; 'citizenship' implies, inter alia, enabling an individual to actively participate in the constitutional life of that State. Often, the entitlement to citizenship rights and nationality coincide in practice. However, not everyone who possesses the nationality of a particular State also enjoys full citizenship rights of that State; small children may possess the nationality of a State, but they are not yet entitled to exercise citizenship rights. The opposite occurs as well: persons who are not nationals of a particular State may nevertheless be granted specific rights to participate in the constitutional life of that State. In some countries, for example, subject to certain conditions non-'nationals' are entitled to vote and be elected in local (municipalities) elections.

In the English language, the relationship between the two terms 'nationality' and 'citizenship' is even complicated in the context of nationality law itself. In the United Kingdom, the term 'nationality' is used to indicate the formal link between a person and the State. …

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