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Saeima rejects looser Latvian «nationality» criteria

On Thursday the parliament decided against rules that would make it easier for Latvian citizens to change their nationality to "Latvian".

If that sounds unusual it is because Latvian law makes a 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 have allowed Latvian citizens who have been living in Latvia for the last 15 years, speak Latvian and belong to the Latvian cultural space to change their official nationality to "Latvian".

"The fact that a person feels or doesn't feel belonging to the Latvian culture cannot serve as a provable fact," said MP Ingmārs Līdaka (Greens and Farmers Union) during the debates.

While Inguna Rībena (National Alliance) said that "nationality is a fateful and holy category that stays unchanged for the whole life."

The amendments were proposed by Andrejs Judins and Lolita Čigāne (both Unity).

Čigāne said that the Latvian parliament has demonstrated that it's not open to people of other nationalities.

However the Saeima supported amendments making it easier for foreigners to register their citizenship - provided they can prove Latvian ancestry.

The amendments also allow residency permit holders to change their nationality to "Latvian" or "Liv", provided that they can prove ancestry.

Up until now only citizens, non-citizens or people legally recognized as stateless could change their nationality.

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