Saeima plans to ease obtaining Latvian «nationality» for citizens

On Thursday the Latvian parliament adopted the proposal - in the second, non-final reading - by Andrejs Judins (Unity) and Lolita Čigāne (Unity) to make it easier for Latvian citizens to change their nationality to "Latvian".

If that sounds unusual it is because Latvian law makes a subtle but important distinction between citizenship and nationality (tautība).

Therefore Latvian citizens can have passports in which their nationality is stated as 'Latvian', 'Russian', 'Polish' and so on, making it something akin to the concept of ethnicity in many other countries.

The amendments would allow Latvian citizens who have been living in Latvia for the last 15 years, speak Latvian and belong to Latvian culture, to change their official nationality to "Latvian".

Andrejs Judins said at a Saeima plenary session that the goal of the proposal is allowing people of a different nationality but having a sense of belonging to Latvia to secure the fact in the records. 

He said that there are still several questions to be discussed on the proposal, such as how it could be established whether someone belongs to Latvia or its culture. 

Valērijs Agešins from the Harmony opposition party criticized the proposal, calling it declarative only as it would be difficult to ascertain whether someone belongs to Latvia.

While Ilmārs Latkovskis (National Alliance) told Latvian Television that the proposal is logical, as nationality is related to language and culture, not ancestry. However, he said that at the moment society isn't ready for such a drastic change without extensive discussion.

Currently non-citizens, citizens and stateless persons can change their nationality to that of their direct ancestors within two generations, provided that the person applying is at least fifteen and can prove ancestry.

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