President's idea on automatic citizenship gets mixed response

A suggestions by Latvia's President Raimonds Vejonis that children born in the country should get automatic citizenship has been given a cautious reception by parties in the current coalition government.

Under present rules, newborns all have the right to citizenship. However, children born to Latvia's "non-citizens", mainly Soviet-era immigrants who have never naturalised and their descendants, have to specifically say they want their child to be a Latvian citizen.

On November 22 Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis, speaking during an expert discussion about the criteria for determining one's belonging to the Latvian nation, said that children born to non-citizens in Latvia should become Latvian citizens the moment they are born.

"We must stop creating more citizens of a non-existent country and subjects of the former Soviet Union," he said.

The nationalist conservative National Alliance sees no reason to amend the existing legislation as regards the procedure for giving Latvian citizenship to the children of Latvia's non-citizens while the other two ruling coalition parties are willing to discuss the possibility.

Commenting on this suggestion, Gaidis Berzins, the co-chairman of the Natinal Alliance, said that, under the effective law, parents, who are Latvia's non-citizens, upon registration of their child can also choose to register their child as a Latvian citizen.

"The process has been made as simple as possible but we are not prepared to give up the requirement that the parents have to declare their intention to get the [Latvian] citizenship for their child," Berzins said. Therefore the National Alliance sees no reason to amend the existing law. Moreover, so far the Latvian president has not come forth with a specific legislative proposal on the subject, one of the leaders of the National Alliance said.

Meanwhile the ruling centrist Unions of Greens and Farmers has started an internal debate on the suggestion, said Augusts Brigmanis, the chairman of the Greens/Farmers parliamentary faction. He would not speak about his opinion on the subject, only noted that at first the matter should be discussed thoroughly by experts.

Edvards Smiltens, the deputy chairman of the ruling center-right Unity party, said that the Latvian president had the right of legislative initiative and could propose legislative amendments regarding to Latvian citizenship for children of non-citizens. In that case, the Unity is prepared to discuss the legislative proposal, although opening of the Citizenship Law for amendments called for caution.

The Unity may discuss the idea raised by Vejonis but for now it is not on the agenda, Smiltens said.


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