Latvian President's 'non-citizen' solution handed back by Saeima

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The effort by President Raimonds Vējonis to stop the creation of new 'non-citizens' in Latvia has failed at the first hurdle.  

Vējonis had used his presidential powers to propose legislation to Saeima that would give automatic citizenship to all newborns in Latvia from June next year, regardless of whether their parents were classed as 'non-citizens'.

However, after the most cursory of debates with just two speakers September 21 the Saeima rejected the proposals.

Speaking in favor of the proposals, Gunars Kutris of the Latvia From The Heart party castigated parliament's unwillingness to even send the proposals for further consideration to a committee: 

"Latvian society is much more solid than the politicians who represent this society," Kutris said, referring to surveys in which it was stated that most support the granting of automatic citizenship to non-citizen children.

Meanwhile, MP Edvīns Šnore of the National Alliance said that the bill smacked of "political corruption" and hinted that he thought the president and the opposition Harmony party were in cahoots.

The rapid rejection of the proposals is a stinging rebuke to the president, though the chances of drumming up support for them was not helped by the fact that he has been in New York in recent days attending the United Nations General Assembly.

39 of the 100 members of parliament voted to move the proposals forward, 38 voted against and 14 chose to abstain from expressing an opinion either way. However, the numbers supporting the proposals were not sufficient to move them forward in the legislative process, which would have required support from half the chamber.


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The ruling three party coalition had in any case said in advance it was not prepared to consider the proposals owing to objections from the nationalist National Alliance party.

Under present rules, all newborns have the right to citizenship. However, children born to Latvia's "non-citizens" have to specifically say they want their child to be a Latvian citizen. Non-citizens are Soviet-era immigrants to the country and their descendants who have not undergone a naturalization process.

According to the Citizenship and Migration Affairs Office, there were 242,560 non-citizens in Latvia in early 2017. Non-citizens don't enjoy certain rights - crucially, the right to vote.

However they can become citizens in a fairly simple procedure by taking the citizenship exam. 

Just 52 newborns were registered as non-citizens last year as opposed to 21,545 who were registered as citizens.

Interestingly, among the first to comment on social media was former Swedish Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Carl Bildt.


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