Dual citizenship could be allowed for children born outside Latvia, but only until they reach the age of majority, Minister of Justice Gaidis Bērziņš has told representatives of the World Federation of Free Latvians (Pasaules brīvo latviešu apvienība, or PBLA).
In a July 9 meeting in Rīga, the justice minister also told the PBLA a broader discussion of the dual citizenship question is needed among members of the ruling government coalition before Latvia’s citizenship law can be changed, according to a Ministry of Justice press release.
The meeting with PBLA Chairman Mārtiņš Sausiņš and other federation representatives was focused on the question of dual citizenship for World War II refugees and their descendants, Jānis Andersons, head of the PBLA’s office in Rīga, said via e-mail. However, the justice ministry’s press release makes no mention of that discussion. Inga Saleniece, Bērziņš’ press secretary, said in an e-mail that the discussion focused on children, but the question of dual citizenship for refugees and their descendants was raised.
Sausiņš told the minister that when children born abroad are not able to get Latvian citizenship, the nation loses loyal citizens.
One option, Bērziņš said, could be to allow dual citizenship for children until they legally are adults. At that point, they would have to decide which citizenship to keep and which to drop.
“Amending the citizenship law is a sensitive question,” Bērziņš said, according to the ministry’s press release, “and that is why clear support is needed from all coalition partners. Amendments have to be prepared with great thought and reason, by analyzing the current situation and considering the changes.”
Because the citizenship law has already been amended several times, Bērziņš told the PBLA representatives, the better option would be to rewrite the law rather than to amend it again.
Members of three coalition parties—the People’s Party (Tautas partija), For Fatherland and Freedom (Tēvzemei un Brīvībai / LNNK), and the Union of Greens and Farmers (Zaļo un Zemnieku savieniba) —in May announced that they did not support legislation proposed in March to amend the citizenship law. The amendments would have made it possible for chidren born to Latvian citizens abroad to claim dual citizenship, while also renewing the opportunity for World War II refugees and their descendants to regain Latvian citizenship without giving up the citizenship of their host country.
Under the current law, dual citizenship is no longer allowed. World War II refugees and their descendants had until July 1995 to reclaim their Latvian citizenship while keeping the citizenship of their host country.
The proposed amendments came from the Secretariat of the Special Assignments Minister for Social Integration Affairs after a task force spent several months studying how to encourage repatriation. Integration Minister Oskars Kastēns, a member of the First Party of Latvia (Latvijas Pirmā partija), said he was surprised by the opposition from coalition partners.
The government at some point likely will tackle the citizenship law and the integration secretariat will be sure to remind officials of the need for dual citizenship, Dana Heiberga, head of the secretariat’s section in support of Latvians living abroad, told Latvians Online in a June e-mail.
The Lithuanian parliament in June approved amendments to that country’s citizenship law to allow dual citizenship for several groups of people, among which are those who live in European Union or NATO defense alliance members states, as well as World War II refugees and their descendants. Lithuanian law previously allowed dual citizenship, but in 2006 the country’s Constitutional Court ruled those provisions unconstitutional.
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