An Austrian national by birth transferred his residence to Germany and naturalised as a German national. The naturalisation in Germany had the effect, in accordance with Austrian law, of causing him to lose his Austrian nationality. The German authorities later withdrew the naturalisation with retroactive effect, on the grounds that the applicant had not disclosed that he was the subject of a criminal investigation in Austria on account of suspected serious fraud, and that he had thus obtained German nationality by deception. The Court held that it is not contrary to EU law for a Member State to withdraw nationality obtained by deception, even if it results in losing EU citizenship, so long as the decision observes the principle of proportionality. Observance of the principle of proportionality requires the person concerned to be afforded a reasonable period of time in order to try to recover the nationality of their Member State of origin.
The applicants are ethnic Armenians born in Azerbaijan. The case addresses extensively the situation of ethnic Armenians from Azerbaijan who left Azerbaijan before the fall of the USSR, and lived in Russia in the 90s. Their potential Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian nationalities are considered. The Court also discusses the legal residence requirement for a travel document in accordance with the 1954 Convention, and finds that such a permit does not need to be of a permanent nature. Applicants are found stateless by the Court and entitled to a stateless persons travel document.
If stateless individuals are not lawfully staying in the country, Contracting States may provide travel documents but the decision to grant them is discretionary, provided it is free from arbitrariness. A person applying for travel documents can be reasonably expected to return to their previous place of residence and apply for the nationality of their country of origin.