Experts recommend Latvia tackles dual citizenship question

Apr 23, 2007

An expert panel set up to discuss diaspora issues has recommended that Latvian politicians addresss the question of dual citizenship.

The panel, named the Support Program for the Latvian Diaspora 2004-09, features representatives from various government departments and official agencies.

“The issue of dual citizenship is extremely sensitive, therefore it must be discussed very carefully,” said Eizenija Aldermane, head of the Latvian Naturalization Board. “It takes political will to solve this issue.”

The head of the Naturalization Board called on representatives from the office of the minister for society integration to agree with the Justice Ministry on the areas of responsibility in working out legislative amendments and on setting up a task force, since the efforts of the previous working group have not yielded any results.

“The task force worked for seven months in vain… Politicians had agreed not to pass any amendments to the Citizenship Law in the near future,” Aldermane said.

Juris Dombrovskis, a representative of the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, said a wide debate on the issue should be held among the public and politicians.

Inga Liepa, the head of office of the minister for society integration, said her office believed that it was necessary to increase the number of categories of people entitled to dual citizenship. “The secretariat is planning to set up a working group in the fall by involving specialists from the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs, the Naturalization Board and the Foreign Ministry to try to find a solution for the problem,” Liepa said.

Aldermane, meanwhile, noted that it would be necessary to decide on which people should be granted the privilege of dual citizenship.

“Talking about dual citizenship in general, it is necessary to identify the target group. I am in favour of one solution — to grant dual citizenship to those children of Latvian citizens who were born in foreign countries after August 1, 1995, but taking into account the laws of their country of residence,” Aldermane said.

Dombrovskis, citing the opinion of Latvian minister for society integration Oskars Kastens, said the citizenship issue “should not be tossed around like a hot potato 17 years after the restoration of independence”. He admitted though that leftist politicians would seize the opportunity to demand citizenship for all Latvia’s residents as soon as the Citizenship Law is opened up for amending.

Kastens told BNS that there are different opinions about possibilities to grant Latvian citizenship to the descendants of Latvians born abroad. One of the solutions was to grant Latvian citizenship to all Latvians born in the EU member states, while a different solution would be to grant Latvian passports to all Latvians born in foreign countries after 1991.