Seimas turns to Constitutional Court over dual citizenship
The Lithuanian parliament on Tuesday asked the Constitutional Court to look at whether it is necessary to amend the Constitution to allow dual citizenship for people who left for EU or NATO member states after Lithuania regained independence in 1990.
In its petition to the Constitutional Court, which was supported by 100 members of the Seimas, the parliament says that Lithuania should consider revising its very strict constitutional doctrine in light of an increase in emigration and in the number of mixed marriages following the country's admission to the EU.
The Constitutional Court will likely give its opinion on the matter in September, Dainius Žalimas, the court's president, told BNS on Tuesday.
The Constitutional Court has ruled on more than one occasion in the past that broadening dual citizenship requires amending the Constitution through a referendum. Supporters of dual citizenship fear that turnout would be too low for such a referendum to be declared valid.
"I do hope that it will be the Seimas that will adopt the decision to amend the Law on Citizenship, because if it does not, there will be a referendum and we will have to assume full responsibility for a potentially failed referendum and the consequences, which may lead to 800,000 citizens being deprived of their right," MP Žygimantas Pavilionis of the opposition Homeland Union–Lithuanian Christian Democrats said on Tuesday.
"That would be too many for the nation and I do hope that the Seimas will stick to its political opinion and we will meet as early as in September to vote on amending the Law on Citizenship and will adopt that decision here, rather than in the streets or villages of Lithuania," he said.
The parliament draws the Constitutional Court's attention to the fact that over 22,000 people hold dual citizenship under the current regulation, which, in the lawmakers' opinion, runs counter to the official doctrine that defines duel citizenship as a very rare exception.
Social Democratic MP Julius Sabatauskas, who heads the parliament's Committee on Legal Affairs, noted that the Seimas petition might adversely affect existing holders of dual citizenship.
"(We are) asking the Constitutional Court to say if it does not object to 22,913 persons holding the citizenship of both Lithuania and a foreign state. We are provoking, in a dangerous, very dangerous way, the Constitutional Court to say if these citizens legitimately hold dual citizenship," he said.
Liberal MP Kėstutis Glaveckas said that a referendum on dual citizenship was inevitable and that called on the parliament to lower the turnout threshold for such a referendum to succeed.
The latest initiative comes amid worries that many Lithuanians living in the United Kingdom will opt for British passports after the country leaves the European Union. Around 200,000 Lithuanians currently live in Britain.
An opinion poll conducted for BNS by RAIT last April showed that 60 percent of the Lithuanian population was in favor of allowing dual citizenship to new-generation emigrants.