The Latvian President has signed a law allowing Latvians to have double citizenship with other countries… except Russia. Moscow cries foul and calls on the EU to take action. Maria Efimova has the story.
Latvia Signs a Citizenship Law
Latvian President Andris Bērziņš signed the law “On Citizenship,” adopted by the Sejm on 9 May. This law allows Latvian citizens to have passports from other countries. Russia is not included in this list. Going against the recommendations of international organization, the law likewise doesn’t include the automatic conferral of Latvian citizenship to the children of “non-citizens,” which would have set a prospective endpoint to the phenomenon of “non-citizenship.” Moscow considers the law discriminatory, calling it an “ethno-political experiment” that is “unprecedented by modern European standards.”
According to the document signed by President Bērziņš, the list of countries whose citizenship can be obtained without loss of the Latvian passport include the member states of the European Union, NATO, the European Free Trade Association, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and some other countries with which it has agreements on double citizenship. Russia, the other countries of the CIS, and Israel are not on the list.
In addition, the law tightens the naturalization rules: People older than 45 now have to prove that they were permanently resided in the country for the past five years.
Although the new version of the law doesn’t provide for the automatic acquisition of citizenship for the children of non-citizens, as recommended by international institutions – including the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights and OSCE’s High Commissioner on National Minorities – the procedure for doing this was simplified. Now, citizenship can be granted at the request of one of the parents right after birth.
The law was signed by President Bērziņš despite the request of the biggest opposition group Harmony Center, which represents the interests of Latvia’s Russophone residents, to return it to the Sejm for further work. However, according to ITAR-TASS, the President soon after the signing of the law sent a letter to parliament calling for its further improvement, so that the list of states with which Latvians are allowed to have double citizenship can be expended in the future.
“The Latvian authorities continue to exacerbate the self-created problem of mass non-citizenship, which is unprecedented by modern European standards, and to ignore Riga’s international obligations,” according to Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commenting on the adoption of the law “On Citizenship” by the Latvian Sejm. “This latest ethno-political experiment by Riga, which turns national minorities into permanent outcasts of a country in which they were born and lived all their lives, clearly demonstrates the democratic deficit in Latvia. We hope that the Europe Union, which took upon itself the responsibility to safeguard human rights and ethnic minority rights in Latvia upon the latter’s accession, can give its objective assessment on this.”
Nicolas Borissov: Some countries exist only to engage in petty spitefulness. And not only towards Russia. There are these small slavering dogs, which bark all the time and strive to sneakily bite you the heels – they bear a strong resemblance to some countries.
Karina Kurchan [replying to above]: And of course it’s better not to do things the petty way, but to slam them with an Iskander straight away.
Tatyana Shunto: How long can one bear a grudge? Against whom? The government isn’t the people. How did Russia hurt them?
Karina Kurchan [replying to above]: Tatyana, it’s not about grudges. Tomorrow, Russia will say that it wishes to defend its citizens, and will start to “force them to peace,” carry out ethnic cleansing, insert military bases. It will say that it is on the request of Russian citizens. This has all happened before…
Yani Petkov: Wages are now higher in Russia anyway, so who cares.