Moacir P. de Sá Pereira on April 23rd, 2008

[Surely you have probably received an email encouraging you to sign the Bičiulystė e-petition asking the Seimas to grant dual citizenship to NATO member nations and Australia. I think the petition is junk in its reasoning (and in its practice, but that is a different issue). Amerikos lietuvis asked people to write in with their opinions on this petition, and so I did. Then I translated what I wrote into English, and now I am printing the English translation here. The Lithuanian original is available on]

ImageWhen I first heard the news about the recommendation to the Seimas that they not allow US citizens to also be citizens of Lithuania, I immediately guessed the US Lithuanian community would flip the hell out. I knew I’d be reading screed after screed with an LB logo affixed to it.

In fact, I was so on point with my prophecy that I should’ve bought a lottery ticket that same day. On the other hand, maybe it’s best that I didn’t, since one thing I failed to predict was the bizarre turn that the dissatisfaction with the Seimas work group’s recommendation would take.

Simply, there are a lot of great reasons why Lithuania should allow US citizens to hold dual citizenship. It would clearly strengthen relationships between both nations, especially financially. We so quickly forget that it was capital provided by the denigrated “first-wave” Lithuanian-Americans that kept the economy of first Lithuanian Republic solvent. So though Lithuania is now in better economic shape, it doesn’t make sense to ignore such a potentially large set of human ATMs. Furthermore, should there be some kind of crisis (terrorist, say) that befalls Lithuania but does not invoke the NATO charter, the presence of many US citizens in Lithuania might encourage the US to take a more active approach in helping defuse (as it were) the tension. Finally, dual citizenship is hardly unprecedented, and Lithuania can boldly incorporate it.

However, among the great reasons for US/Lithuanian dual citizenship, you will not find the reasoning of choice in the Lithuanian-American public sphere: the fact that both the US and Lithuania are in NATO. I don’t understand why both PLB chairperson R. Narušienė and the Amerikos lietuvis editorial board have taken this path, especially as it leads to ludicrous attempts at equating NATO with the EU.

The editor of Amerikos lietuvis, V. Ragauskaitė, discussing the dual citizenship to be offered to EU citizens, asks, “But why are citizens of NATO member nations (that is to say, allies of Lithuania) held to be inferior?” The answer should be—yet clearly isn’t—obvious: NATO is not the EU.

NATO is an alliance created to defend its member nations. NATO does not involve itself in the internal affairs of its nations. In the 1949 treaty that founded the alliance, all the text had to say about internal affairs was that the nations had to be founded on the principles of “democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.” Nothing in the treaty is written about citizenship.

Furthermore, NATO is concerned with the integrity of its member nations. So even though NATO nowadays will have the occasional humanitarian jaunt, the primary focus remains defending member nations from attack within North America and Europe.

On the other hand, the EU, as we all know, is almost absurdly all up in the interior affairs of its members, taking into account precisely such questions as citizenship. It’s not by accident that the new Lithuanian passports have the words “European Union” printed on them (see below) and not “NATO.” NATO doesn’t have the same kind of protective organs as the European Parliament, Ombudsman, or, most importantly, the European Court of Justice. NATO cares about protecting its space. The EU looks within, guaranteeing agricultural and economic policy as well as human rights.

After Lithuania joined the EU, Lithuanians could travel anywhere in the EU they liked and work there, as well. Now we are seeing ŽAS’s words come true as a new Laisvės alėja is being founded on the streets of London. Yet during this time, the US still refused to grant visa-free travel to citizens of Lithuania. A. Simanonytė writes in AL that somehow the Seimas work group discriminates against US Lithuanians. But she does not write a word about the fact that the US has been discriminating against Lithuanians from Lithuania for years. If NATO were to be held in the same regard as the EU, then there would not (still) be any sort of issue regarding visa-free travel to the US.

But in using the word “discriminates,” Simanonytė and the AL editorial board give away the plot. Discrimination is behavior against a person for for things beyond the person’s control (or need to justify), like gender, race, religion, and so on. We could add citizenship to that list, too. For example, I did not exactly choose to be a citizen of the US, just like I did not choose to grow up in a Lithuanian-speaking household. These things are contingent, and acting against them is surely discrimination.

Dual citizenship, however, is a horse of a different feather. If a person finds him or herself in a situation where he or she has to choose between citizenships, then this person is, most likely, in that position because of individual choice. The person should take responsibility over the decision and not selfishly whine something about not being able to possess and simultaneously devour a torte. Obviously it is too bad that I put off getting my Lithuanian citizenship in 2003 after doing all the leg work to find the appropriate documents that would (still) allow me to apply. But I never imagined that I had some sort of god-given right to being a citizen of Lithuania also. The dual citizenship would be a privilege, not a right. After all, I am still wholly capable of enjoying a full political life here in the US.

As I wrote at the top, there are certainly good reasons why the Seimas should grant dual citizenship to Lithuanians from the US (and from Canada, Russia, Australia, South Africa…) But it saddens me that I do not see these reasons in print. Trying to force an equivalence between NATO and the EU is simply the disingenuous twisting and turning fueled by conservative paranoia—the same paranoia that considers the legacy of the Cold War to be the keystone of Lithuanian identity. And to call the recommendations of the work group discrimination, well that is an insult to those in Lithuanian history who paid with their lives for the real discrimination wreaked upon them by the diktats of the Soviet, Nazi, and Lithuanian governments.

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3 Responses to “Why this citizenship petition sucks”

  1. what is the current status of legality concerning acquiring dual citizenship through ancestry?

  2. Paul,

    as I write elsewhere, the info is all on the lithuanian embassy’s website [in English]:

  3. hi my name is frank tejo of holland mi… i am in the country illegally and have been since 1957.. and i have not been caught yet..

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