- May 8, 2013
Double citizenship: this problem can(not) be solved by referendum
The issue of double citizenship once again dominated the session of the parliamentary commission and the World Association of Lithuanians.
In April, on the first reading, the parliament has approved the decision to organise a referendum in this matter because, as the Constitutional Court ruled on March 13th, 2013, only a change in the Constitution can open the way to double citizenship.
Meanwhile, representatives of the World Associations of Lithuanians criticise the initiative to make the referendum as they are afraid that the planned event may fail, simply because of low attendance, similarly as many referendums have failed so far.
—It is not our choice, because this is a very risky way. We are even disappointed, as we do not have too much hope that the referendum will be a successful one. Maybe it is possible to find some legal solution, still, and the problem of Lithuanians’ citizenship abroad will turn out to be solvable by an act, without a referendum. But if it does not happen, we will have to take the road of the referendum and start agitation on a massive scale — said the chairperson of the World Association of Lithuanians, Danguolė Navickienė.
Members of Parliament calm representatives of the Lithuanian diaspora and, to make sure that the attendance will be higher than 50 per cent, they propose organising the referendum next year, together with the presidential election.
—We dedicate a lot of effort to legalise double citizenship — the leader of the parliament, Vydas Gedvilas, assured the representatives of the World Association of Lithuanians. He also informed them about the planned, inter-party agreement in this matter and although, as the leader of the parliament has emphasised, there is consent to create such an agreement, it is still a disputable matter how the amendment to the Constitution should sound.
In the project of the decision to organise a referendum, authored by MP Artūras Paulauskas from the centre-left ruling coalition, which was presented to the parliament, the laconic wording of the amendment assumes generality of the procedure of having a double citizenship.
Meanwhile, the right-wing opposition wants to limit granting of double citizenship. According to the right wing’s perspective, the right would be given only to citizens of the European Union and NATO member countries. Opponents reject this proposal because this would exclude the Lithuanian diaspora in, for instance, Australia, which is numerous, as well as Lithuanians in Russia or Belarus, from the right to keep Lithuanian passports. The right-wing politicians do not conceal the fact that they want limitations precisely because of the fear of uncontrolled procedures of giving Lithuanian citizens Russian citizenship which, some time ago, lead to territorial splits in Georgia or Moldavia.
—We have to assess actions of some other countries which grant citizenships to inhabitants of neighbouring countries. We see what is going on in Georgia and Moldavia, where enclaves of Russian citizens were created – MP Arvydas Anušauskas from the conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats party was defending his views.
The issue of formulating the amendment to the constitution remains still unsettled.
Meanwhile, recent public opinion polling shows that over 55 per cent of inhabitants of Lithuania support recognising double citizenship. 26 per cent of people asked were against such a solution and less than 20 per cent had no opinion on this matter. The research was conducted by the Baltijos tyrimai company on request of Lietuvos rytas magazine at the end of April, that is just after the time when the Constitutional Court decided that only a change in the constitution can regulate the issue of double citizenship.
The earlier governments were often trying to go around the Constitution and change only the act on Citizenship. Ten years ago the Seym passed a similar act. It allows double citizenship to be granted to citizens of the EU and NATO members. But the act was sued to the Constitutional Court which, in 2006, decided that it stands against the Constitution.
The previous parliament has also attempted at solving the problem with passports of Lithuanians who live abroad by means of a referendum. It was planned to be organised along with the last year’s parliamentary election but the plans remained plans.
Meanwhile it is estimated that about a million of Lithuanians who live abroad wait for this problem to be solved. This issue is particularly related to those, who emigrated to look for jobs. From the research conducted by Baltijos tyrimai it turns out that in every fourth house at least one family member currently lives abroad and has been doing so for more than six months.
According to unofficial data, even half a million of Lithuanian citizens could have emigrated from the country in the twenty years of its independence.
Tłumaczenie by Emilia Zawieracz w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Emilia Zawieracz within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.