RIGA - Though the number of citizenship applications submitted to the Latvian naturalization authority has nearly doubled in 2009, the authority has also seen a striking number of people that want to renounce their citizenship.
Despite the interest in citizenship, Eizenija Aldermane, head of the Latvian Naturalization Board, reported that there has also been a steep rise in people requesting renouncement of Latvian citizenship.
"We now have to listen to calls that should probably be heard by other departments. People call the board's regional departments, the hotline, and also personally to me to say: 'hey, citizenship, in today's Latvia, who needs it?'" Aldermane told Latvijas Avize.
"Almost all of the callers are Latvians who are emotionally interested in renouncing citizenship," she continued.
The Naturalization Board has seen two different types of requests for people applying for naturalization. One group is interested in actively engaging in public and civic activities, while the other group is unable to find work in Latvia, and need a passport to go to the West to find employment.
According to the Naturalization Board, in January alone, 219 people requested citizenship.
It is a presumed possibility that some people want to become active as citizens ahead of the upcoming local elections, while the situation with the second group is seen as much worse. This group consists mainly of non-citizens who are unable to find work in Latvia due to insufficient language skills or massive layoffs and are planning on leaving 's either alone or with their families.
In order to go to Western Europe, however, they need to get the passport of an EU member state.
"If someone is living paycheck to paycheck, then if he doesn't receive his salary for one month, this means that he can go bankrupt. It is not really clear how long this interest about naturalization will continue. We're estimating that in 2009 we will be getting about 4,000 applications for naturalization," said Aldermane.
Latvia saw a naturalization boom after acceding to the EU. The Naturalization Board received 10,581 applications in 2006, 3,308 applications in 2007 and 2,601 applications in 2008. Now the numbers are back on the rise.
Aldermane said the number of calls to the Naturalization Board's information hotline has increased lately: "Disgruntled by politicians' squabbling and the deepening of the economic crisis, they call us to emotionally express their anger over the hard economic conditions and developments in the country," she said.
"Of course these people cannot just give up Latvian citizenship so easily," Aldermane said. She said the procedure of renouncing citizenship can only be launched if the person has been guaranteed the citizenship of some other country.
Though Lithuanian President Adamkus recently stated he would support dual citizenship (see story Page 16), Latvia remains firmly in opposition to dual citizenship.