September 04, 2012
The Latvian parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee recently struck down a recommendation that would include citizens of Australia and Brazil as among those who could qualify for dual citizenship under proposed amendments to the country’s Citizenship Law.
However, that does not mean the thousands of Latvians who live there are out of luck, say two members of parliament working on the amendments.
As it debated the amendments before moving the legislation (Nr. 52/Lp11) on to a second reading in the Saeima, the Legal Affairs Committee (Juridiskā komisija) rejected the recommendation made by the National Alliance (Nacionālā apvienība “Visu Latvijai! - Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK”).
Australia is home to about 20,000 people who claim Latvian ancestry, according to census data. The vast majority are exiles who came to the country after World War II, and their descendants. In Brazil, hundreds if not thousands more are descended from exiles or from migrations that occurred in the early 20th and late 19th centuries.
They, too, would be able to receive dual citizenship under the proposed revisions to the law, say Latvian MPs Ilmārs Latkovskis and Dzintars Rasnačs. Both men are members of the National Alliance and serve on the Citizenship Law Amendments Subcommittee (Pilsonības likuma grozījumu apakškomisija).
According to changes proposed to the Citizenship Law, Latvians in Australia, Brazil and other countries need not worry about the possibility of receiving dual citizenship, Latkovskis told Latvians Online in a Sept. 4 email.
“The amendments foresee that Latvians may receive dual citizenship regardless of the country where they live,” he wrote.
Under the proposed amendments, dual citizenship would be allowed regardless of ethnicity for citizens of countries that are members of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association or the NATO defense alliance. “This circle does not include Australia, Brazil, Venezuela, Russia and a few other countries notable for their Latvian populations,” Latkovskis wrote.
However, the amendments also would allow ethnic Latvians to obtain dual citizenship regardless of where they live and when their ancestors left the homeland, he wrote. This would apply to those who left Latvia and their descendants down to the fourth generation.
Rasnačs, meanwhile, clarified that the legislation would still face a third reading, so the question of whether Australia, Brazil and other countries are to be specifically included may not be settled.
“Our recommendation was rejected because representatives of these countries could obtain dual citizenship through the ‘exile’ paragraph and the ‘Latvians and Livonians’ paragraph,” he wrote in a Sept. 4 email. Exiles and their descendants, regardless of where they live, could reclaim their Latvian citizenship without giving up citizenship in their host country, according to the proposed amendments. Ethnic Latvians and Livonians could also obtain dual citizenship if they could prove their ancestors lived on Latvian soil between 1881 and June 17, 1940, the date when the first Soviet occupation began.
Dual citizenship also would be allowed for citizens of countries with which Latvia has treaties recognizing dual citizenship, according to the proposed amendments. However, at present no such treaties exist, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Jānis Sīlis.
Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000-2012 he was editor of the website.