Belgium should consider granting nationality to Britons who work at the European Union’s executive arm, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said.
Some 917 British citizens work at the Commission, according to 2018 figures.
Some have lived in Belgium for years, have European pension plans and are concerned about their future after Britain leaves the bloc next March.
Many have applied for passports in Belgium or other EU countries.
Amid a stream of praise for Belgian prime minister Charles Michel, Mr Juncker said he hoped that “Belgian authorities show the same generosity when it comes to granting Belgian nationality to British public servants who are here in Brussels”.
He said of the British staff seeking Belgian nationality: “They deserve it.”
Addressing the Belgian leader and EU lawmakers, Mr Juncker said Mr Michel is a generous man and “I am sure and certain that he will take account of our wishes and our remarks”.
I'm happy that Belgian citizenship is so attractive, that British citizens are asking to stay in our country, in which they've often been living for a long timeBelgian PM Charles Michel
Mr Michel said: “I’m happy that Belgian citizenship is so attractive, that British citizens are asking to stay in our country, in which they’ve often been living for a long time.”
But recalling “the independence of the justice system” he noted that the Belgian courts are faced with contradictory rulings on how these citizenship applications should be handled.
Mr Michel said his government is looking into the issue from a legal point of view.
Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said later that Mr Juncker has sought to reassure British staff that they will not lose their jobs from next year.
Mr Juncker’s remarks to Mr Michel, she said, were an effort to “remind him of this process” in Belgium.