Dual citizenship bill gains support

The Baltic Times

Talis Saule Archdeacon, RIGA

A bill that would allow for Latvian dual citizenship has drawn the support of political heavyweights and now has a strong chance of becoming a reality.

The bill was proposed by Minister for Children and Family Affairs Ainars Bastiks, and has garnered the support of both the Latvia”s First Party and Latvia”s Way election bloc – one of the members of the fourparty ruling coalition – and the highly influential Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks.

According to the bill, children born in an EU country who have at least one parent that is a Latvian citizen would be allowed to take Latvian citizenship as well.

Currently, holders of Latvian passports cannot hold a passport of any other state simultaneously, even if they are married to a foreign national or were born in another country. As a result, many ethnically Latvian people are forced to choose between citizenship of their place of residence and their spiritual homeland.

“In a country like Ireland, for instance, which is currently home to many Latvian citizens, children are granted citizenship automatically upon their birth. Since Latvian laws do not allow for dual citizenship, parents of these children are quite often forced to give up Latvian citizenship, and later it is difficult for our country to defend the interests of these children,” the foreign minister said in a July 23 press release.

According to data from the Latvian embassy in Ireland, 153 Latvian children were born in Ireland this year alone, the Latvian language daily Diena reported.

Pabriks noted in his press release that the high level of worker mobility in the EU forces Latvia to liberalize its citizenship laws.

The government wants to avoid overliberalizing the law, however, keeping the amendment restricted only to EU members and close allies. “We wouldn”t like for this to be a universal norm,” Maris Grinblats, head of the For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK nationalist bloc, told Diena. He went on to say that the bill should focus only on children in NATO and EU member states, specifically to the exclusion of Russia.

The various factions of the ruling coalition are still in contention over which states should be included in the bill.

Latvia”s First and Latvia”s Way election bloc spokesman Edgars Vaikulis told The Baltic News Service that although the coalition had agreed not to make any amendments to the citizenship law, the law could be amended in this case due to the importance of the issue.

The spokesman said there is a possibility that lawmakers will be called in for an extraordinary sitting soon to consider the proposals. Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis, however, is against the idea and has said that although the issue would surely be debated it is not urgent enough to call an extraordinary parliament sitting.

In a statement to the press, the Latvia First and Latvia”s Way bloc noted that the issue of the rights of children born to Latvian citizens in foreign countries was raised in connection with several cases.