Sweden’s population register law has been a point of contention for foreign citizens, including those from the EU. The law necessitates that foreigners must prove they will reside in Sweden for at least a year to acquire a personal identification number, a crucial requirement for several day-to-day activities such as opening a bank account or getting a job. This rule particularly affects those with short-term employment contracts, students, pensioners, and other inactive individuals. Over the years, the European Parliament has received 13 petitions against Sweden concerning the personal number issue, with petitioners from various EU nations including Germany, Spain, Denmark, and the UK.
The EU Rights Clinic, a legal service provided by ECAS and the University of Kent, submitted a complaint in 2017, citing nearly 300 cases of EU nationals being denied personal numbers by Swedish authorities. The complaint argued that the refusal to issue these numbers goes against EU free movement rules and discriminates against EU citizens. According to EU law, EU citizens should be considered residents after living in Sweden for over three months, as stated by Anthony Valcke, the Founder and Supervising Solicitor of the EU Rights Clinic.
The European Commission previously investigated these issues and issued a formal notice to the Swedish government, marking the first step in an EU legal procedure that could lead to the EU Court of Justice. The case was closed when Swedish authorities pledged to address the issue. However, recent petitions suggest that the situation has not improved. The alternative “coordination number” proposed as a solution still doesn’t provide access to necessary services according to Ronald Huth, a German petitioner. Italian petitioner Kevin Ribeiro Torquetti also expressed difficulties in obtaining the personal number, which led to challenges in accessing healthcare and other services.
In response, the Swedish law introduced a new provision on September 1st, 2023, allowing anyone with a connection to the country to access the “coordination number”, which has similar functions to the personal number. MEPs Loránt Vincze and Marc Angel have asked the Commission to consider opening an infringement procedure against Sweden if issues persist. The petitions remain open for future consideration. EU citizens who feel wronged by decisions like these can reach out to the Solvit centre at Sweden’s National Board of Trade.