Government at Odds Over Dual Citizenship ({{commentsTotal}})

Ken-Marti Vaher (left) and Andrus Ansip Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Coalition partners Reform Party and IRL have taken opposing stands on the issue of dual citizenship.

At Thursday's government press conference, Interior Minister Ken-Marti Vaher (IRL) introduced a study which concluded that dual citizenship should not be made legal. Prime Minister Andrus Ansip disagreed, saying that a Cabinet-level debate on the subject has yet to be held and the ministry's study is not decisive.

Vaher said: “A quality bond between a person and the state is only possible with one country. Loyalty conflicts, especially concerning public service and military service, could arise.”

Vaher said the most important point is that the coalition has had an agreement that the principles of citizenship policies would not be changed. "Clearly, legalizing dual citizenship would be changing a long-held principle."

Foremost, there has been pressure to allow dual citizenship for those with the right to citizenship by birth. But Vaher said allowing dual citizenship only for that group would be discriminatory against others with multiple citizenship, such as those who have attained citizenship through naturalization.

The current law requires that individuals with dual citizenship choose to give up one citizenship by the age of 18. The interior minister has proposed abandoning this requirement, favoring a solution whereby dual citizenship is not permitted de jure but is in effect left intact.

But Ansip said the current system has raised problems that cannot be solved by simply not doing anything.

"The solution is not as simple as getting rid of the legal requirement to give up dual citizenship [where] we say that there is only one citizenship while knowing that in reality there are around 100,000 people with dual citizenship," Ansip said.

"We have 100,000 people who identify themselves as Estonians as well. If we say that the second citizenship is illegal, to remain a patriot you have to lie that you don't have a second citizenship," Ansip said.

"The people who have dual citizenship are big Estonian patriots and we have no reason to make enemies of them. When you forcibly take away citizenship, implementing the law as it is written, it is doubtful that they will continue to have warm feelings," Ansip said.

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