Officials illegally keep dual citizenship

  • 2001-07-12
  • Aleksei Gunter
TALLINN - Estonia's secretary of state and a number of other high officials hold dual citizenship, even though it is illegal, the newspaper Postimees reported on July 6.

Aino Lepik von Wiren, the secretary of state, kept her Swedish citizenship when she moved to Estonia. Others with dual citizenship are Toivo Klaar, who has a Canadian passport and is the foreign policy adviser to President Lennart Meri; the former defense forces commander General Aleksander Einseln, who holds a U.S. passport; and Riina Kionka and Mart Laanemae, Estonian ambassadors to Germany and Austria respectively, also hold Swedish citizenship.

All received Estonian citizenship by birth because at least one of their parents was a native Estonian. According to some government officials, dual citizenship could pose a national security threat.

"For example, if two countries were at war, both armies might call for that person who has dual citizenship," said Indrek Tarand, chancellor of the Foreign Ministry. "However, I haven't noticed any conflicts (regarding dual citizenship) here."

Foreign Affairs Minister Toomas Ilves gave up his U.S. citizenship in 1993 when he became Estonia's ambassador to the United States.

Estonia's law on citizenship came into effect on April 1, 1995 and prohibits a citizen of Estonia from holding citizenship in any other country. However, none of the governmental institutions provide specific regulations for keeping dual citizens out of public service, according to a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

A state chancellery's spokesman said on July 6 that having dual citizenship is a completely personal matter.

Article 8 of the constitution says no one can be deprived of Estonian citizenship if one of the person's parents had it. This is the main argument used by the chancellery.

"The constitution's provision does not regulate dual citizenship, so the fundamental law does not rule out either dual citizenship or it being banned," a spokesman said.

The state chancellery's spokesman said Estonian citizenship is regulated by Article 8 of the constitution and the law on citizenship effective from April 1, 1995.

Legal experts support the state chancellery. Juri Pold, a judge and professor of law, said dual citizenship could be banned if there were an agreement between certain countries.

According to Koit Luus, a spokesman for the Estonian tax department, it is no big deal if a person has double citizenship where taxes are concerned.

"The place of residence and work are more important for us," he told The Baltic Times, adding that in most countries the situation is the same.

"I can't think of any financial or other advantage a person with two passports can have," said Luus.

In Estonia, property issues are the same for anyone. According to the Estonian Land Board, foreigners are eligible to buy land after receiving permission from the relevant local municipality.