Constitutional Court to hear case challenging dual citizenship rule

Latvia’s Constitutional Court has agreed to hear a case that could settle a lawsuit filed by a family in Germany and determine the future of dual citizenship for thousands of Latvians in the diaspora.

The court on Sept. 23 decided to initiate the case challenging the constitutionality of parts of Latvia’s citizenship law, according to spokeswoman Līna Kovalevska. Under the law, exile Latvians and their descendants had the opportunity until July 1995 to register as Latvian citizens without giving up citizenship in their home countries. Since July 1995, dual citizenship has been outlawed.

Latvia’s Supreme Court, which is in the process of ruling on a case involving an ethnic Latvian family living in Germany, said in an Aug. 25 opinion that the restrictions are unconstitutional and called on the Constitutional Court to take a look at the citizenship law.

Baiba Lapiņa-Strunska and Viktors Strunskis and their daughter Rauna went to court after the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs (Pilsonības un migrācijas lietu pārvalde, or PMLP) told them that they would have to give up their German citizenship before they could register as Latvian citizens. The Strunskis family contended that passports issued to them by Latvian legations in exile were evidence that they already were Latvian citizens, but the PMLP disagreed.

According to the Supreme Court, under the principle of state continuity Latvia as a nation did not disappear with the start of the Soviet occupation. The legations in exile continued the work of the pre-war Latvian state.

The Supreme Court also said in its opinion that the 1995 deadline to apply for Latvian citizenship and the prohibition on dual citizenship are unconstitutional.

About 30,000 ethnic Latvians became dual citizens before the 1995 deadline, but many have complained that they did not know about the cut-off date. Lapiņa-Strunska, commenting on the Supreme Court’s decision in August, estimated that at least 500,000 ethnic Latvians could be affected by a Constitutional Court ruling.

The Constitutional Court has asked Latvia’s parliament, the Saeima, to submit a written response to the constitutional challenge by Oct. 23. The court expects to finish its preparations by Dec. 23, including collecting other materials that will allow judges to objectively evaluate the case, Kovalevska told Latvians Online in an e-mail.

The court will then determine a hearing date for the case as well as whether the case will be heard in open session or through a written process. An opinion, Kovalevska said, is supposed to be rendered within 30 days of the hearing date.

“The practice so far,” Kovalevska added, “suggests that from the initiation of a case until a judgment is issued on average takes from six to nine months.”

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

6 thoughts on “Constitutional Court to hear case challenging dual citizenship rule

  1. I suggest to organize the special site where ethnic Latvians can register and get online updates. Some statistic about these Latvians also can be useful. Es esmu viens no tiem Latvieshiem kas nepaspeja registreties lidz 01.07.95. Pilnigi atbalstu nelikumigo ierobezojumu atcelshanu!

  2. This will be interesting because Latvian Law, if the issue has not been already established in pre-existing law, will need to be coordinated with EU law. EU law tends towards a more liberal view, awarding dual citizenship rights by naturalization for instance. Es gaidu ziņas arī manu dēlu dēļ…

  3. An Estonian wants to chime in, even though I am not fully up to speed on Latvian law. There is a lot of confusion about basic principles in Estonia, that much I can write about. If, under the basis under of state continuity, the Baltic nations did not disappear with the start of the Soviet occupation – and indeed, national continuity does not easily disappear under occupation – then one cannot apply for citizenship, since, at least in Estonia, citizens and their offspring remain/are citizens. Confusion creeps in for lots of people who are not well informed, because they confuse applying for a passport or other documentation with applying for citizenship. Applying for a passport or an ID card by a person who actually IS a citizen is merely application for documentation proving citizenship. A person who is already a citizen cannot be naturalized twice! It saddens me that in the former Estonian refugee community, many people are so unaware or so shy that they don’t realize they’ve been Estonian citizens all along. Also: greetings to Viktors!

  4. Idea of website great. Latvia needs all the loyal citizens it can get. Things need to change. Have one daughter who has citizenship and the other doesn’t. Same family, speaks Latvian (probably better than some Latvia), involved in school, church, guides, dancing etc, been to Latvia. Why is she different to her sister and me??? Laiks ir pienacis!!!!

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