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EU slams Sweden over Spanish name refusal

Published: 30 Mar 2010 14:30 GMT+02:00
Updated: 30 Mar 2010 14:30 GMT+02:00

The Swedish tax agency has been instructed by the EU commission to revise its procedures for approving surnames after a Spanish-Swedish couple were refused the right to give their son both their names.

The EU has found that the agency discriminated against the couple in denying them their rights under Spanish law and custom to bestow both their names on their child.

"Sweden has, by refusing to register a child with dual Spanish-Swedish citizenship under a double surname, in accordance with Spanish law and custom, failed in its obligation according to articles 12,17 and 18 of the EU treaty," the EU commission explained in a statement outlining its decision.

Susana Benedet Perea and Christian Andersson had complained to the EU on behalf of their son, Roque Andersson Benedet, regarding the Swedish national registration system and the tax agency's refusal to register a double surname.

The couple are married, live in Sweden and Roque, their only son, holds dual Spanish and Swedish citizenship.

The couple argued to the tax agency that they would like their son registered according to the Spanish custom as "it would facilitate his full identification in the exercise of his rights in both Sweden and Spain."

The tax agency rejected the couple's application on October 15th 2004 and registered the child as Roque Andersson as the authority ruled that according to existing legislation the child could be given only one surname - either the mother's or the father's, but not both.

According to the Swedish name law, parents can then apply to change the child's name at the Patent and Registration Office (Patent– och registreringsverket – PRV), but must pay for the privilege. The original name registration is however free of charge.

The couple's appeals in the Gothenburg Administrative Court (Länsrätten), the Administrative Court of Appeal (Kammarrätten) and the Supreme Administrative Court (Regeringsrätten) were all rejected on the grounds that the decision was in line with EU law.

But the EU Commission stated in a letter of formal notice sent on October 23rd 2007 that Sweden's application of the same rules on children with only one citizenship as for those with dual citizinship constituted discrimination on the basis of nationality, and was a restriction on free movement within the union.

Sweden argued in return that children with a double surname registered in another member state are given the possibility to submit an application for a name change with the PRV.

In its notice the EU Commission made special mention of the existence of a fee for the subsequent change of the child's name at the PRV.

Sweden pledged that the government was planning to propose changes to the name law so "that people with dual nationality within the EU can more easily gain approval for their foreign names in Sweden." Sweden also said that the charge for a name change would in the meantime be waived in such cases.

While the EU commission in its March ruling welcomed the changes outlined in Sweden's reply, it is argued that the country is not meeting its obligations according to EU law and thus the treatment of dual EU citizens amounts to discrimination.

The EU Commission has now issued a Reasoned Opinion instructing Sweden "to take the steps necessary to comply within a period of two months."

Sweden began regulating names in the early twentieth century amid concern that disreputable people were adopting noble names. The laws have been reformed on several occasion's since then; in 1983, for example, it was made possible for men to adopt their wife or partner's name.

In accordance with the name law, the tax agency is also responsible for the approval of first names - a practice which regularly grabs headlines over name proposals such as Metallica, Q or Dark Knight, as well as more mundane requests to register accepted male names for females, or surnames as first names.

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

17:58 March 30, 2010 by stoffer
Quote: "he tax agency is also responsible for the approval of first names - a practice which regularly grabs headlines over name proposals such as Metallica, Q or Dark Knight, as well as more mundane requests to register accepted male names for females, or surnames as first names. "

It's not the tax agency business to decide what name is appropriate or not. If someone wants to be named Metallica, why not? He might get sued by Metallica, but the state, as a representation of the society, does not have any business in that. In other words, most of people do not give a damn about someone's name, and so should do the administration. Administration should be ruled by the society, not the society by the administration (unless we are in soviet Russia).
19:04 March 30, 2010 by Kaethar
In Sweden parents do not OWN their children. They are their guardians. Part of being a good guardian is trying as hard as you can to make sure your child is not subject to ridicule or hate. Naming your child Dark Knight is abusing your authority. People who try to "express themselves" through their children are nothing but selfish.
19:25 March 30, 2010 by livinginsweden
The kingdom of sweden?

ha ha ha
19:55 March 30, 2010 by glamelixir
My husband and I wanted to have each other surenames when we got married, we weren't allow to do it.

I wanted to have his surename because I thought it would help integration, he wanted to have my surename to show his love and demonstrate equality. We ended up me getting his surename and resigning mine. Sooooo sad and such a contradiction with Swedish progressive mentality.

My nephews though, were allowed to get both parents surenames because the parents were not married, my children will have to get their dad's leaving behind their Italian roots. Sad.
21:06 March 30, 2010 by Kevin Harris
Sweden failed to adopt the relevant articles of the EU treaty into its national laws (as it is supposed to), and then incorrectly applied its defective national laws in this case leading to a breach of the treaty. To make matters worse it then fought a pointless and expensive defence that was given short shrift by the EU Commission. Millions of taxpayers' Crowns later, we are where we should have been in 2004, when the child's correct name should have been first registered. What a waste of time and tax payers' money, and a bit embarrasing for a country that deems itself a "good European". Get it right next time please.
22:22 March 30, 2010 by kenny8076
with all do respect Kaether kids can make fun of anyones names, there like prisoners with weapons, they can figure any joke out for someone. Growing up people called me ''skinny kenny''..... didnt make me feel good. My best friend's name in elementary and middle school was Prince. No one bothered him or the girl named Mercedes. Its not the governments job to tell people what they can name there child. Its an ancient law that obviously isn't approved by the rest of the non communist country's of the world.
23:06 March 30, 2010 by Potrero
While I agree that Skatteverket's position on multiple surnames is unreasonable, I'm a little confused how EU law works here. The Commission is basically the executive, right? Are they really allowed to issue executive orders about the scope of EU laws that override the decisions of national courts? Shouldn't this be the job of the judiciary? Is there an EU-level judiciary other than the Court of Human Rights?
00:13 March 31, 2010 by jack sprat
You are dead right Kaethar,parents dont own their children in this country..

They are owned by the Peoples Socialist Democratic Republic of Sweden,

They are given a number when they are born.

They pay their taxes,..Then they die.

I mean why even bother with a name at all,..I am sure Skatteverket would be happy to forget about names altogether and just go the whole hog by tattooing them all with their numbers when they are born, just in case any of them try to avoid paying their taxes.
01:16 March 31, 2010 by PonceDeLeon
Personaly,I can see how a Spanish surname would be cause for ridicule. I for one am greatful that "Here in Sweden" important family decisions are made by the State. Heaven forbid, parents having to make thoughtful decisions regarding their families. No head, no headaches...
03:27 March 31, 2010 by xenyasai
It is just a name, so why make such a big fuss about it? Countries have different laws, deal with it!
08:52 March 31, 2010 by Kevin Harris
Er Xenyasai.

Under the Treaty of Europe, all EU countries are compelled to adopt certain laws into their national legal system so that in some areas of law, they are the same. Sweden didn't adopt this one. That's the point.
09:27 March 31, 2010 by Nemesis
@ Kevin Harris

Sweden has not adopted a lot of EU laws which it was supposed to adopt.

That is why we foreigners have so many stupid problems which we don't have in other EU countries.
09:40 March 31, 2010 by cogito
@stoffer "...unless we are in soviet Russia..."

We are.
10:00 March 31, 2010 by munched
F**k I'm getting sick of Sweden.. One retarded action after the other, several times a day, in EVERY sphere of it's society. Truly daunting..
10:21 March 31, 2010 by DAVID T
The Swedish goverment doesn't trust it's own citizens which is understandable
10:36 March 31, 2010 by Swenglishman
When I got married I wanted to have a double barreled name with a hyphen as we wanted to use both our family in an equal way and be sure our children had the same double family name. Initially we were refused as the state did not like hyphenated names (the woman at Skatterverket actually said, 'what if your child marries somebody who also has a double barreled name, then they will have four names !!!???)

In the end I had to change my name in England to the double name and get a new English passport issued, and then my wife insisted that as a married woman she had the right to adopt her husband's name. Finally this was agreed on, but we had to also dig up a court ruling setting the precedent for what we were doing. This drives me mad…Why the Swedish state has to involve itself in what people name their kids is beyond me. If somebody gives a child a really outrageous name then I am sure these fringes cases can be handled in a separate per case way, instead of this rigid system. It just highlights the part of Swedish culture that wants everybody to be the same and frowns on anything which is different or alternative.
11:29 March 31, 2010 by Sjayna
Sweden really suffers of Flock Syndrom, aping each other is common and they are very good to apply the Jantelagen,which 'forbids' anyone from standing out from the crowd...So boring...
11:44 March 31, 2010 by jack sprat
As stated by David T,Sweden doesnt even trust its own citizens and furthermore treats them like five yr.old children.

It signed up to the EU treaty then resisted in every way possible as long as possible the various agreements regarding free trade on such things as alcohol and medication in order to retain absolute contol over as many aspects of peoples lives as possible.

This latest regulation regarding names is ridiculous in the extreme,especially as it is normal practise for the Spanish to retain the names of both parents, and far from causing problems I their find the names have a very pleasant ring to them compared with some N.European names.

However little sign of change by the Swedish govt which seems hellbent in carrying on,long outdated practices which even the USSR had to let go.
11:59 March 31, 2010 by reco73
I had the same problem with wanting both mum and dad surnames on my child's surname. We were told that was not possible and had to put the mum's surname as a middle name instead.....
12:29 March 31, 2010 by Prionace Piaggio
Register the child's name on a non-Swedish EU citizenship, with a double-barrelled hyphonated name, then claim Swedish citizenship with that name. Is that not the simplest answer - gain the Swedish identity after the non-Swedish one?

Mind you if the Swedish authorities change to the EU rule then there will be no problem, but that could be a long time coming.
12:56 March 31, 2010 by pallomamy
my child have both swedish and foreign name and that didnt make any trouble!
15:23 March 31, 2010 by Puffin
My children

- born in Sweden

- registered in Sweden

- double surnames

It can be done but is more problematic is you are Swedish citizens as well as Swedish law is prioritised.

However for us non Swedish families just try writing a nice note telling them that it is of cultural importance and that there is no Swedish interest in the issue
21:11 March 31, 2010 by double concerto
In reality, At the moment It's a watered down liberalised cranky version of communism in Sweden for sure. If not tackled it will become the full blown cranky hardline version eventually.
22:23 March 31, 2010 by Paula-port
Comment: I think sometimes you are too hard with Sweden... and the Swedish... which is not necessarely a bad thing. It is what keeps you up as one of the best in the world, that constant demand. There are issues about name and control everywhere. I am Portuguese and Ihave lived in the US and they forced me to adopt only 1 name and 1 surname to get a marriage license - Instead of the 2 names and 4 surnames that I have on my passport. When my daughter Sarah was born in Lisbon the US consulate forced me to get her a second name otherwise they would not accept that she would have both my family name as well as her American father's. They said that my "ODD" Portuguese name would ne perceived has her name and not a surname. The Portuguese authorities refused to accept her registry without a ton of extra papers and a permit from the US consulate because in Portugal the same name is current but is spelled SARA, without the H. I was later married to a Portuguese man and I wanted to call my son Vicente (in English Vincent) and the clerck at the registry refused. It took me 3 petitions to the state, to the head of the Central Registry, etc., and a copy of my great, great-grandfather's birth certificate - their allegation was that Vicente is a surname and not a name, which was so,so stupid, because although it was not very commun in the last 70 years it was a very commun name in the 800 years before that, since the formation of Portugal as a kingdom, at least. It costed me a lot of money in requirements and notorized signatures plus a fine - for they only ruled on that issue long past the legal term for the registration of a child. Although the law is quite alike in most EU countries, what each country follows is what they want and what is usual - in Portugal, for Portuguese children, there is a whole library at each registry with the names that are allowed, it was organized during the dictatorship. If the name is not there, it is not allowed. However, if you give some "incentive" to the clerck, you are able to register names like Katya, that contain letters like K and Y that do not exhist in the Portuguese alphabet. I am sure that if I had a child in Spain they would insist that this child would have my family name after the father's family name which is the usual way in Spain but it would be absolutely outrageous for a Portuguese father.
22:45 March 31, 2010 by alingsaskev
I had such high expectations of Sweden when I first moved here three years ago, Sweden is held up by the rest of the world as a shining beacon of democracy, fairness and advised neutrality. Three years on and I can't wait to escape.

Sweden prides itself in its uniqueness from celebrating Christmas a day earlier than everyone else, through confusing Easter with Halowe'en etc., and to be honest Swedish culture is all the richer for its stubborn adherence to its own unique traditions - however this very much perpetuates the idea of "The Swedish way".

I am now tired of being told, "Oh you can't do that, it's not the Swedish way."

If Sweden is indeed to be a part of the EU and enjoy the benefits of belonging within Europe, the Swedish Government, its institutions and to some extent its citizens must begin to adapt to outside forces.

Skatteverket has had it's come-up-pence! For years it has believed it is beyond reproach. Hopefully next will be Systembolaget and it's unlawful monopoly, Apoteket and its unlawful monopoly, Svensk Spiel and it's unlawful monopoly.

Then the banks who still refuse to accept EU documentation as leg and who's clerks will search for hours on a UK driving license for a Swedish Personal Number, which they will never find.

Sweden is a dichotomy, in some ways terribly modern, in most ways awfully backward.

I feel mostly sorry for Swedes who by their own resilient nature and their inherent hatred of confrontation, sit back and watch the state ride roughshod over their rights without blinking an eyelid.

Sweden has opened itself up to trouble by letting in other European citizens however, who are more used to shaking the apple cart, who know their rights and are not afraid to fight for them - so watch this space for more stories of this kind - and keep a tally- I would bet a million Kronor that the majority of cases will be brought by incredulous non-swedes who simply cannot understand or will not accept Swedens sidestepping of it's European responsibilities.
00:53 April 1, 2010 by PonceDeLeon
Amen to that...
01:39 April 1, 2010 by glamelixir
@ alingsaskev speechless and clapping alone in the room in front of my monitor.

How could you put in such clear words something that cost me so many fights during my three years in Sweden.

Thank you, I am copying your text and pasting it in my facebook if you allow me with appropiate reference to it.
07:26 April 1, 2010 by Kevin Harris
Local, give Alinsgsaskev a column.

Anyone who has had Skateverket play a role in naming their children should contact Skatterverket's customer service department, explain the consequences of the EU Commission's decision (they won't understand it unless you do), and ask for an explanation and an apology.

Shake that applecart!
08:44 April 1, 2010 by alingsaskev
@ glamelixir, thank you and go for your life!
14:00 April 1, 2010 by cogito
@alingsaskev

Bravo!

And let's see more of you here, please.
15:54 April 1, 2010 by MichaelZWilliamson
Just name the child "Fifty Percent Tax To The State" and be done with it.

I'm also amused that everyone thinks the EU is some kind of magic answer. If it is, it must have been a really stupid question.
20:17 April 8, 2010 by wxman
Visiting this site and the other Local for Germany helps keep me grounded in reality. Just when I believe Obama is a flaming socialist, I discover he is a rank amateur. Everything is relative, I suppose.
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