Moacir P. de Sá Pereira on February 22nd, 2009
Lithuania's new political power player. lrytas.lt

Lithuania's new political power player. lrytas.lt

The biggest, by far and away, task facing the myriad diaspora Lithuanian organizations that had been formed before 1990 was, after Lithuania regained its independence, figuring out how to integrate the new wave of immigrants into the diaspora society.

Many casual and lazy prognoses about the difficulty these organizations have faced since 1990 blame the idea that since independence, the need for the organizations has vanished. This is obviously false, as there are now more active Lithuanians in many nations (especially Western Europe) than ever before.

Each community in the US has had varying success over integrating the new arrivals, but no community has done a great job of erasing all difference (that I’ve seen). There’s always some kind of barrier between groups, for whatever reason.

This barrier becomes important because of a consensus growing among things I’m reading in the Lithuanian press regarding dual citizenship.

There are two current courses of action right now. A legal course to dual citizenship (despite PLB’s word games, that it what’s being pursued) can be taken either via the Seimas (legislatively) or via referendum (constitutionally). The problem is that, of course, because the LR Constitution explicitly forbids dual citizenship (except in certain unnamed circumstances), any legislative course would run the risk of being unconstitutional.

Valdo Adamkaus panel that investigated the issue returned with a list of circumstances they felt that would make dual citizenship possible and constitutional: grant it to the fixed(-ish) set of people who were citizens before 1940 but were exiled or fled from Lithuania before 1990. That’s an astonishingly huge group of people, of course, but it’s only growing via reproduction, not by continued emigration.

People who left after 1990 would simply be ineligible for dual citizenship via legislative means, since that makes any current Lithuanian citizen theoretically eligible for dual citizenship–he or she simply needs to emigrate, get a new citizenship, and there you go.

Hence, as I’ve argued repeatedly over the last year, the only chance the “trečiabangiai” or “ekonomimi emigrantai” have at dual citizenship is via constitutional amendment (in this case done by referendum).

Yet PLB has  shown a disinclination toward doing the work toward a referendum, even going so far to agitate against the referendum efforts put forward last summer, which I investigated at the time. In other words, if PLB is dead set against working toward changing the constitution, then they are, by definition, leaving a huge portion of their membership (these “ekonomimi emigrantai”) out in the cold. By pushing for dual citizenship for pre-1990 exiles/emigrants, PLB is explicitly making two kinds of categories of emigrants, when, in fact, we should be unifying!

Arūnas Valinskas, with whom I don’t agree about much, sees the problem here very clearly:

Anot [Valinsko], siūloma nauja Pilietybės įstatymo redakcija priešina užsienio lietuvius.

„Bandoma takoskyrą išskirti į 2 grupes ir daugiau. Pagrindinės grupės – tie, kurie išvyko iki Lietuvos nepriklausomybės ir vadinama ekonominių emigrantų banga, kuri išvyko jau po to. Šie srautai atskirti, kas dar labiau didins įtampą tarp išeivių, nes vieni bus lygesni už kitus“

Any kind of efforts at stitching the groups together under common goals (“lietuvybė,” whatever) are undone by failing to pursue a result in the question of citizenship that will not make this preëxisting barrier even sharper. I can only imagine the resentment of some trečiabangis who scraped hard to save up to move to the US seeing some spoiled upper middle class lietuviukas from the south west suburbs of Chicago able to exercise a stronger claim over LR citizenship than he.

This is precisely an opportunity for PLB, or any Lithuanian organizations working outside Lithuania, to try to show that, in fact, they speak for all Lithuanians living abroad, both the self-styled exiles from independent Lithuania and the more recent “economic” emigrants.

“We are not content with two different rules of citizenship for Lithuanians abroad,” we should shout, “we demand a solution that helps us all!”

Of course (now I’m going in circles), that answer exists: amendment via referendum.

There’s another option also available, one that, if properly implemented, would help things out immensely, and that’s the “Lietuvio korta.” I’m persistently on the fence about this, because one of the most valuable aspects of LR citizenship, to me, is (and has always been, even when it was just potentially true) the citizenship in the EU. It strikes me as unlikely that the card would have any sort of legal value outside of Lithuania (and might even cause trouble, as the Polish card did for Polish members of the Seimas), so it would be useless to a cosmopolitan fellow like myself unless I were to move to Lithuania, which while not an impossiblity, is hardly my life’s goal.

But the focus of this post is on the threat that pursuing dual citizenship for some might bring. Many recent emigrants (at least from my anecdotal experience) care very much about dual citizenship questions–it affects them, in fact, far more directly than someone like me. That is, they are put in a position where they have to give up their Lithuanian citizenship in order to get another nation’s citizenship to improve their current living arrangement. For someone like me, Lithuanian citizenship is something much more not necessary, since I don’t live in a nation as an alien (though that might change soon).

So on a day-to-day basis, dual citizenship is possibly more important to this economic wave, worried of losing their ties to Lithuania, than to the postwar wave, made up of people who want to reclaim a tie. Yet the current policy benefits the second group–the postwar wave. Valinskas is right: pushing through the workgroup’s plan, with no concern for a referendum, will create two diasporas, indelibly. And that’s too bad.

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