VILNIUS - Following his controversial veto of the previous citizenship law, President Valdas Adamkus has proposed a referendum on dual citizenship.
The move has shocked and baffled many people interested in the outcome of the law. Regina Narusiene, head of the World Lithuanian Community, said she "can't grasp" what the president is thinking and says that if the law went to referendum, it would be "doomed to failure."
Narusiene said current referendum laws mean a death sentence for any law put to vote, because too many people are required to turn out to validate the result. "It is too stringent. For a referendum in Lithuania you need fifty percent of the people to attend, and that isn't going to happen," she said.
Apart from political apathy among voters, Narusiene said that the government has no clue how many people have emigrated from the country because they can't keep track of it. Therefore, she said, the necessary number would require the votes of people who are no longer living in the country.
The proposed referendum would coincide with the presidential elections next year.
Adamkus suggested the idea at a Monday meeting with the presidents of the Lithuanian World Community and the World Lithuanian Youth Union in Trakai.
The president pledged to ask Parliamentary Speaker Ceslovas Jursenas in the near future to initiate a parliamentary decision on the referendum.
Narusiene believes that Adamkus is avoiding this controversial issue with the referendum proposal. "He has been a great representative of Lithuania worldwide 's he has a Western look, but domestically he has lost his way. It seems like we are hearing from a different person," Narusiene said.
In mid-July, Parliament approved the presidential veto on the new Citizenship Law and voted in support of the president's proposed amendments, which provide that dual citizenship can be an option for children of Lithuanian nationals born abroad and citizens of the countries with which Lithuania has dual citizenship agreements. So far, Lithuania has not inked any such agreements.
Narusiene censured the veto, but some people believe that the initial rejection by the president was a good move. Adamkus heard the opinion of people in South America while on tour who applauded the veto. The original law paid no attention to ethnic Lithuanians living outside NATO countries or the EU.
Ruslanas Irzikevicius is a regular blogger and political analyst at his Web site, Lituanica. He also supports the veto. "I have to agree with the president, who pointed out that by granting nationality to the Lithuanians in the NATO and the EU countries, the law would discriminate against those Lithuanians who live outside of those military and political clubs. This would also include the Brazilian Lithuanians," he said.
The vetoed law stipulated that only children of Lithuanian emigrants born abroad and Lithuanian nationals who are acquiring citizenship of EU and NATO countries could be able to have two passports.
When vetoing the law, the president stressed that the new citizenship law as adopted by Parliament was disregarding the constitutional requirement that a Lithuanian citizen can only be a citizen of a second country in exceptional cases.
At this time, Article 12.2 of the Lithuanian Constitution provides the possibility of dual citizenship in exceptional cases, but this matter is extremely important for foreign Lithuanians 's upon becoming citizens of their country of residence, they lose their Lithuanian passports immediately.
In the autumn of 2006, the Constitutional Court found that the country's main law provides for dual citizenship as rare exceptions, declaring that laws allowing dual citizenship run counter to the constitution.
The vetoed law would have allowed dual citizenship for six groups of people: citizens of EU and NATO member states; political deportees and prisoners and three generations of their descendants; those who left Lithuania during the Soviet rule (1940-1990) and their offspring; Lithuanians living in traditionally very populated "isles" in neighboring states; individuals who have been granted a Lithuanian passport alongside the document issued by another state; and children of Lithuanian citizens and citizens of other countries that have signed an international agreement with Lithuania on dual citizenship, though Lithuania currently has no such agreement with any other country.