Supreme Court to rule this month on Strunskis dual citizenship case

A Latvian family from Germany will learn late this month whether their appeal of Latvia’s ban on dual citizenship—which the Constitutional Court recently ruled is legal—will be upheld by the country’s Supreme Court.

Baiba Lapiņa-Strunska and Viktors Strunskis appeared June 15 before the three-judge panel in Rīga to plead their case once more, this time suggesting the Constitutional Court’s May 13 ruling provides a previously unknown opening in their favor.

The couple in 2006 sued the Office of Migration and Citizenship Affairs (Pilsonības un migrācijas lietu pārvalde, or PMLP) after they were denied in their attempt to get a Latvian passport for their daughter, Rauna, who was born four days before Latvia reasserted its independence in 1990. Strunskis, who was born in Latvia, and Lapiņa-Strunskis, who was born in Germany, understood that they already were dual citizens of Germany and Latvia. Their Latvian passports were issued by the London legation of the Latvian government-in-exile.

However, PMLP officials told the couple those passports were invalid and that to become Latvian citizens they would first have to renounce their German citizenship. Once they would do that, then their daughter could be registered as a Latvian citizen.

The Latvian constitution forbids dual citizenship. Until July 1, 1995, persons who had held Latvian citizenship before the Soviet occupation could reclaim it without giving up citizenship in another country. This transitional rule also applied to descendants of pre-World War II citizens. Nearly 31,000 Latvians around the world were granted dual citizenship.

The Strunskis case ended up in the Supreme Court, which last year called the dual citizenship restriction a violation of human rights. But before it could decide on the case, the Supreme Court asked the Constitutional Court to weigh in on the legality of the transitional rule.

Although the Constitutional Court last month found no problem with the transitional rule, its opinion also noted that the question of dual citizenship is one that should be left up to the Saeima and the people of Latvia.

In addition, the attorney for the Strunskis family told the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court’s opinion revealed a new issue: The Latvian government in 1993 decided that passports issued by Latvian legations—such as the ones held by Baiba Lapiņa-Strunskis and Viktors Strunskis—would become invalid as of Jan. 1, 1994.

A country governed by the rule of law, attorney Guntars Precinieks told the court, would have informed its citizens of that little-known fact. As far as the Strunskis couple knew, their legation-issued passports were still valid and the July 2005 deadline was not a concern for them.

The Strunskis couple also presented the Supreme Court with a 20-page overview of their case, which PMLP attorney Arvīds Zahars dismissed as likely not having much bearing on the outcome.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to issue its ruling on June 28.

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

2 thoughts on “Supreme Court to rule this month on Strunskis dual citizenship case

  1. What can be wrong with a law forbidding dual citizenship? As the Good Book says “no man can serve two masters”. I think Latvia is very fair with granting citizenship – especially to those whose loyalties so obviously lie east of Latvia!

  2. I really really wish they would allow dual citizenship. I was born in Latvia and I love it with all my heart because my family lives there and I live in the United States. I would love to get an American passport without losing my Latvian citizenship but unfortunately that will not happen…

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