July 09, 2010
Latvia’s citizenship law should be amended by the next parliament to allow dual citizenship, the board of directors of the political association Vienotība announced July 8.
Vienotība, one of the political groupings favored to see at least some of its candidates elected Oct. 2 to the 100-seat Saeima, includes New Era (Jaunais laiks), Civic Union (Pilsoniskā savienība) and the Society for a Different Politics (Sabiedrība citai politikai).
The amendments should allow dual citizenship for Latvians living abroad, for Latvian citizens who are working long-term abroad, and for descendants of Latvian citizens who were born abroad, according to a press release from Vienotība.
“The Latvian state must proceed wisely and with far-sightedness,” Vienotība chairman Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis said. “The current law’s norms, which prohibit dual citizenship, came about in the context of pre-war international practice and do not match with the global, dynamic processes in the world today.”
After the nation regained independence in 1991, Latvian law allowed Latvian exiles and their descendants to request citizenship without giving up the citizenship of their country of residence. However, the provision expired in July 1995 and since then dual citizenship is not allowed. Several attempts to restore dual citizenship have failed to raise enough political support.
An estimated 23,000 Latvians abroad—exiles and their descendants—did not or could not register before the deadline, according to the Vienotība press release, citing the World Federation of Free Latvians (Pasaules brīvo latviešu apvienība, or PBLA) as the source for the figure. However, the PBLA did not provide such a number to Vienotība, Jānis Andersons, head of the PBLA’s office in Rīga, told Latvians Online in an e-mail. The United States alone is home to at least 50,000 exiles and their descendants, he said.
Latvia’s attitude toward dual citizenship is also a question about the future of the nation, Kristovksis said in the press release. He noted that many Latvian children born in Ireland are getting Irish citizenship and, because of that, cannot be registered as Latvian citizens.
“That means that the Latvian nation distributes and loses its children,” Kristovskis added. “This cannot be allowed.”
It is unclear how many other political parties would support amendments to the citizenship law. Spokespersons could not be reached for Harmony Centre (the five-party, center-left and Russian-oriented Saskaņas Centrs, whose Nils Ušakovs is mayor of Rīga); the four-party socialdemocratic Atbildība; the two-party coalition Par labu Latviju!, which unites the conservative People’s Party (Tautas partija) and the First Party of Latvia (Latvijas Pirmā partija); the two-party Union of Greens and Farmers (Zaļo un Zemnieku savienība); or the leftist For Human Rights in a United Latvia (Par cilvēka tiesībām vienotā Latvijā).
The nationalist parties For Fatherland and Freedom (Tēvzemei un Brīvibai/LNNK) and Visu Latvijai!, which recently announced their affiliation for the parliamentary election, agree with Vienotība’s stance.
“We fully support this proposal on dual citizenship and it is also part of our association’s program,” Raivis Dzintars, Visu Latvijai! co-chairman, told Latvians Online in an e-mail.
Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000-2012 he was editor of the website.