VILNIUS - Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas and President Valdas Adamkus have been making political moves this month in the effort to legalize dual citizenship, an idea that's gaining support among political parties.
During an opening ceremony at the World Lithuanian Community and the World Lithuanian Youth Association in Kernave on Aug. 6, President Adamkus called the matter of dual citizenship one of the most important tasks the state is facing, and said he would like modifications to the Constitution to accommodate preserving citizenship for Lithuanians living abroad.
Tens of thousands of Lithuanians currently reside outside their home country, and because Lithuanian law does not typically allow dual citizenship, many eventually find themselves forced to choose between keeping their Lithuanian passports or adopting the citizenship of their host country.
Exceptions are sometimes made for ethnic Lithuanians whose parents or grandparents fled their homeland during World War II. However, last November Lithuania's Constitutional Court ruled that the number of people eligible for dual citizenship has to be cut down, as now such citizenship is a wide-spread phenomenon rather than the extremely rare exception it should be.
Under current law, dual citizenship is granted only on this exceptional basis. A constitutional amendment would be required to change the system.
"At the time the Constitution was written, tighter requirements for citizenship were needed. But life makes its own amendments to many things. And so we too can modify our rules," Adamkus said during the Kernave ceremony.
Changing the law, however, isn't a simple matter. Chairman of the Constitutional Court Egidijus Kuris has said that the provision of single citizenship with rare exceptions is fixed in the Constitution, and can only be modified by holding a popular referendum.
Politicians worry that holding a separate referendum on the issue is a costly measure, and is likely to fail due to low voter turnout.
A month ago Prime Minister Kirkilas said that Lithuania was looking for possibilities to legalize dual citizenship without a referendum.
Now he's hoping that with enough backing from the parties in Parliament, the change might get pushed through.
"I think, judging by the existing situation ... that we ought to try to form a political will. We will talk with the Conservatives and other political parties about how it can be done. There are actually two options 's either adopt the amendments at the parliament ... or talk with political parties and organize a referendum," the prime minister told journalists on Aug. 7.
If political parties agree upon re-evaluating the citizenship law, a referendum might be held in conjunction with the approaching parliamentary elections next fall, Kirkilas added.
A BNS report states 9 out of 10 Lithuanians are in favor of allowing dual citizenship for Lithuanians living abroad.