Moacir P. de Sá Pereira on July 11th, 2008

ImageWell, it’s a good thing I decided to wait until after Šokių šventė to weigh in on the Seimas’s passing a nearly certainly unconstitutional dual citizenship law, since President Valdas Adamkus just vetoed it. About the veto I do not have much to say, since the article I read is only filled with Regina Narušienės over the top histrionics and descent into self-parody. Having her complain about people who are beholden to a “pasenusis mentalitetas” absolutely made my day.

But still, some value exists in looking at what the new law proposed. It basically took to heart the Constitutional Court’s rulings about the unconstitutionality of citizenship based on ethnic criteria by not granting dual citizenship to “ethnic” Lithuanians (who may still be eligible to get Lithuanian citizenship after forfeiting their other citizenship). And that was a good step. The quicker the precedent forms that divorces the ethnic nation from the republican state, the better.

But the new law had a sort of twist that has a very good justification with  a nefarious politics behind it. The first time I heard about the Constitutional Court’s decision about stopping dual citizenship, someone suggested to me that it was somehow based on the fact that Lithuanians were panicked about the “lines around the block in NYC” of people petitioning for Lithuanian passports. In other words, they feared a massive return of an exiled Jewish community to the Lithuanian public (and political) sphere.

So whether or not it is true that there exists a paranoia about a Jewish population with political power, the new law limited dual citizenship only to people (and their descendants) who could prove that they fled Lithuania after the Soviets invaded in 1940, as opposed to earlier, when, of course, masses of Jews and others were fleeing Central Europe as Hitler’s influence grew larger in nations like Lithuania (for more, read Eidintas).

On the one hand, it makes sense to give dual citizenship to those who fled their nation and had their citizenship stripped by a USSR that claimed that their nation no longer existed (and, thus, that the automatic USSR citizenship all Lithuanian citizens received was invalid). I may not have existed had my grandparents not fled, but certainly my mother would have reproduced, and those children would have been Lithuanian citizens, had it not been for WWII.

On the other hand, the Soviet invasion begs to be understood in historical context, which this post-1940 distinction completely ignores. Contexts like how Lithuania colluded with the USSR to ensure its autonomy against Poland. Contexts like how Vilnius’s being the capital of Lithuania is in large part the result of the secret protocols in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. Contexts like these demonstrate that WWII did not begin (in Lithuania) with the marching of the Soviets in 1940, but, rather, began far earlier, with a political climate that threatened the continued autonomy of the Lithuanian Republic as it felt pressure from two different spheres of influence (German and Soviet). Can you really blame a Jewish family in Kaunas for wanting to get the hell out of the increasingly noxious environment in 1938? Yet that family would have been ineligible for dual citizenship.

So by drawing the political line over dual citizenship, the Seimas still managed to underhandedly effect an ethnic agenda. As a result, I am glad to see that Adamkus chose to veto the law. Plus, it keeps the conflict within the realm of the legislative for a while longer. The more finesse this gets at the legislative, the better, since it will hopefully only grow in constitutionality (though I doubt it).

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2 Responses to “Dual citizenship thwarted again”

  1. I support the idea of dual citizenship, however, this was an ill-conceived scheme that deserved to be vetoed. Kudos to Adamkus. Instead of trying to slip shoddy legislation past the President and the Constitutional Court, Regina Narusiene and the World Lithuanian Community should focus on marshaling the resources to make the case to the Lithuanian people for an amendment to the Constitution allowing for dual citizenship.

  2. Arvydas Barzdukas
    July 18th, 2008 at 5:24 pm

    Hear, hear! But try to explain that to some folks, especially to some in Los Angeles. Lithuanian constitution is not very well written and there are many things in it hard to figure out and subject to all kinds of interpretations. Yes, there were some fears about some unsavory people obtaining Lithuanian passports, but not by those were clamoring for dual citizenship. Those, mostly, were the “patriots” at home.

    Is Darius Udrys and am I the only two people who read this blog, which, when it is discussing and not berating, sometimes makes quite a bit of sense. It needs to be advertised, or something?

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