February 09, 2011
A week and a half after Latvian President Valdis Zatlers stepped into the dual citizenship debate, a Saeima commission was scheduled Feb. 9 to begin discussion on his proposals. Meanwhile, two Latvian diaspora organizations have voiced their support for his suggested amendments to the Citizenship Law.
Zatlers on Feb. 1 sent a nine-page letter to Saeima Chairwoman Solvita Āboltiņa in which he told the parliament that it is time to fix the law.
The Saeima’s Executive Commission on the Citizenship Law has been charged with examining the president’s proposals.
The president in his letter said dual citizenship should be allowed for four groups of people: those who left occupied Latvia and their descendants; Latvian citizens who have taken citizenship in European Union and NATO members states; children born to Latvian citizens living abroad; and people who have become citizens of another country through marriage.
Under the Citizenship Law’s transitional rules, exiles and their descendants could register as dual citizens up to July 1995. Since then, dual citizenship has been banned.
Zatlers also proposed that the path to Latvian citizenship should be eased for children born to non-citizens and stateless persons.
The World Federation of Free Latvians (Pasaules brīvo latviešu apvienība, or PBLA) and the European Latvian Association (Eiropas Latviešu apvienība, or ELA) both back the president’s proposals regarding dual citizenship.
“The PBLA wishes to express its support for the president’s initiative to restore dual citizenship status for the political exile and its descendants and for new Latvian emigrants (those Latvian citizens, who now have left to work and live abroad),” Jānis Andersons, head of the association’s representative office in Rīga, told Latvians Online in a Feb. 3 e-mail.
Similarly, the ELA in a Feb. 6 press release lent its support to Zatlers’ proposals.
“The ELA many times earlier has expressed a number of proposals to the Latvian government and officials about how to foster long-term relations with the Latvian diaspora, which is important to both sides,” ELA Chairperson Dace Lutere-Timmele wrote in the press release.
The proposed changes to the Citizenship Law are relevant to a large number of people, she wrote.
The president’s proposals are not the only amendments to the Citizenship Law now before the Saeima. The National Association (Nacionālā apvienība “Visu Latvijai!” - “Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK”) on Jan. 24 introduced legislation that also would allow dual citizenship. The bill on Jan. 27 was referred to the parliament’s Law Commission, but that body has yet to take up the legislation.
The government of Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, which included restoration of dual citizenship in its declaration, has yet to make its own proposal. However, MP Rasma Kārkliņa—who like Dombrovskis belongs to the Unity (Vienotība) bloc—wrote in a Jan. 20 blog that the issue is being discussed by the fraction.
Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000-2012 he was editor of the website.