Latvia’s parliament now has three proposals on dual citizenship to consider after the Unity (Vienotība) bloc submitted a bill on Feb. 17.
Similar to amendments proposed by nationalists in the Saeima and by President Valdis Zatlers, the latest bill would allow dual citizenship for several groups, including wartime exiles and their descendants who live in countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia.
The bill (Nr: 238/Lp10) was introduced by MPs Dzintars Zaķis, Edvards Smiltēns, Ilma Čepāne, Ilze Viņķele and Dzintra Hirša.
Under current Latvian law, dual citizenship is not allowed. From 1991 to the summer of 1995, under transitional rules enacted by the Saeima, exiles and their descendants were able to register as dual citizens. Since that time, large-scale emigration to countries like Ireland and the United Kingdom, as well as renewed pressure from the exile community, has reactivated the issue of dual citizenship.
Among Unity’s proposed amendments, dual citizenship would be allowed for:
- Latvian citizens who have become citizens of members states of the European Union, the European Free Trade Association or the NATO defense alliance, as well as of countries with which Latvia has international agreements recognizing dual citizenship.
- Exiles who left Latvia between the start of the first Soviet occupation on June 17, 1940, and Latvia’s renewed declaration of independence on May 4, 1990. The provision would lift the restrictions of the Citizenship Law and would also apply to descendants of exiles.
- Persons, and their descendants, who were Latvian citizens before June 17, 1940, even if they became citizens of another country after May 4, 1990.
- Children who are born outside of Latvia and at least one of whose parents is a Latvian citizen, if under the law they automatically become citizens of their country of birth.
- Latvian citizens who through marriage become citizens of another country.
“The amendments are an opportunity to guarantee closer ties to one’s country of origin, motivating Latvian emigrants and their children to return to their or their parents’ homeland,” according to a Unity press release announcing the bill.
The first proposal this year for changing the Citizenship Law came Jan. 24, when the National Association (Nacionālā apvienība “Visu Latvijai!” – “Tēvzemei un Brīvībai/LNNK”) introduced a bill in the Saeima. While the legislation has been referred to the Law Commission, it has yet to have a hearing.
Zatlers in a Feb. 1 letter to the Saeima outlined his proposals for changing the citizenship law. Those proposals are under discussion by the Executive Commission on the Citizenship Law. Both the World Federation of Free Latvians (Pasaules brīvo latviešu apvienība) and the European Latvian Association (Eiropas Latviešu apvienība) have announced their support for the president’s proposals.
On Feb. 15, the government of Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis approved an action plan for reaching hundreds of goals, including changing the law to allow dual citizenship by the end of this year.
A recent poll by the Rīga-based survey firm TNS Latvia and Latvian Independent Television found that 71 percent of economically active residents of the country support the president’s plan to allow dual citizenship for a broad range of people, according to the newspaper Diena.
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