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Dual citizenship: Why Zelensky decided to give Ukrainian passports to foreigners?

Author : Iryna Shostak

Source : 112 Ukraine

During an appeal to the Verkhovna Rada, Volodymyr Zelensky announced a bill allowing Ukrainians to have citizenship of several countries. It was wrapped up in an alleged concern for the diaspora. But it became clear that no tangible benefits were provided for its representatives
11:00, 6 December 2021

Open source

The winners will be those foreigners who live or have a business in Ukraine, as well as Ukrainians who decided to go to work in Europe with the prospect of becoming EU citizens. At the same time, politicians and officials with two passports are "amnestied", as well as individual oligarchs who have three documents in their hands. Surely, we should also wait for new expats in high positions.

At the same time, Ukrainians, who for various reasons were forced to obtain a Russian passport, will not be forgiven - they will have to choose which citizenship to leave. However, looking ahead, let's say that these decisions are all only on paper. In reality, this document will not make any significant changes, even if it becomes law. Because the state of Ukraine does not have the opportunity to check the presence of several passports of its citizens.

The first and most important thing to say about Zelensky's two bills (No. 6368 and 6369), they do not contain a single word about dual or multiple citizenship. As before, Ukrainians will be officially allowed to have one citizenship. This is provided for by the Constitution, and the mono-majority may not have enough votes to amend it. Therefore, Zelensky decided to bypass the Constitution with cunning. On the one hand, there can be only one citizenship, but on the other hand, those wishing to become a citizen of Ukraine will only be required to formalize documents regarding renunciation of their previous citizenship. And for Ukrainians who already have several passports, nothing will change.

The very idea of ​​an initiative regarding multiple citizenship in Ukraine is as old as the world. Zelensky is far from the first president to have expressed a desire to tackle the issue of passports. But while in Ukraine all such bills failed, the practice of multiple citizenship is working quite successfully in many countries of the world: Great Britain, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, New Zealand, USA, Romania, etc. Many countries allow their citizens to acquire a second passport under certain conditions ... For example, in Montenegro, you can have dual citizenship only with Macedonia, while in Latvia this is only allowed for citizens with EU and NATO passports.

Why is it so popular today? Multiple citizenship provides a number of "goodies": from the maximum freedom of movement around the world and various tax benefits to voting in elections. But it is worth emphasizing that all these opportunities are "unlocked" only if between the countries which passports the person has, agreements on the mutual recognition of both citizenships are concluded. In other words, countries know that their citizen is also a citizen or national of another country. Such agreements exist between Britain and Canada, India, Australia, France with Canada, Portugal with Brazil, and so on. In the case of Ukraine, there is no question of this at all.

But when a person receives a passport of another state, but does not notify his "native" country about it, we are talking about a second citizenship. It is this scheme that is practiced by some Ukrainians today. And it would be worth settling.

A second citizenship

It is important to remember that now in Ukraine the second citizenship is not prohibited, but the Ukrainian legislation does not recognize it. This means that it does not work on the territory of the country.

Let's take an example: a citizen has two passports in his hands - Ukraine and Greece. But, being on the territory of Ukraine, he will be only a citizen of Ukraine, and on the territory of Greece - only a citizen of Greece. To put it simply, he will be held accountable for his misdeeds in Ukraine in accordance with Ukrainian law, as a Ukrainian, and in Greece, as a Greek. But when entering other countries, he already has the right to choose himself which country he is a citizen of. This is stated in Article 2 of the Law of Ukraine "On Citizenship".

Since there are no documents that would clearly prohibit a Ukrainian to have a second citizenship, it is impossible to bring to any responsibility for having a second passport in Ukraine. As well as obliging a citizen to notify government agencies about obtaining a passport of another state. While just such a notification can be considered the basis for the termination of citizenship. And the cherry on top - the letter of the law says, only the president can deprive a person of citizenship. But the same law does not oblige the president to do this.

Hence, a bunch of foreigners will appear in ministerial posts in Ukraine. There is no need to look far for examples, as there were scandals with US citizens Natalia Yaresko and Ulyana Suprun, Lithuanian citizen Aivaras Abramovichius, as well as the Georgian "reformers".

The other side of the coin is when the president selectively revokes citizenship, referring to the fact that disgraced politicians have two passports. This happened with the former MP Andriy Artemenko, whom President Petro Poroshenko deprived of his Ukrainian passport.

Against the background of the scandal with Hungary, when the consul in Beregovo issued the passports of his country to Ukrainians and asked not to report this to the authorities, the Ukrainian side mobilized and repeatedly announced the imminent introduction of punishment for a second citizenship. But there have been no significant shifts in this matter. And it will not happen even after the adoption of the Zelensky bill.

What the presidential bill proposes?

In short, now the state will turn a blind eye on paper to the presence of several passports of Ukrainians, as well as those who want to become a citizen of Ukraine. Yes, as before, the norm on one citizenship remains, but if we talk about documents, then the condition for admission to citizenship of Ukraine will be "the submission by a foreigner of a declaration of recognition as a citizen of Ukraine or an obligation to terminate foreign citizenship, or a declaration of renunciation of foreign citizenship and recognition of oneself only a citizen of Ukraine, or a declaration of the absence of foreign citizenship ".

We are only talking about written declarations that the state will require from foreigners wishing to obtain a Ukrainian passport. At the same time, if a foreigner acquires the citizenship of Ukraine, he, as before, in legal relations with Ukraine is recognized only as a citizen of Ukraine. It is the same with those Ukrainians who secretly received passports of other states - in our country they will be recognized only as citizens of Ukraine.

Citizens of those countries that are defined by the government as "states of migration risk", as well as the aggressor state, that is, Russia, are spelled out in the bill separately. The law says that they will have to give up their old one when receiving a Ukrainian passport. True, how can you verify that a Russian has renounced Russian citizenship? The SBU will have the right to find out about this, but it will be specific, with respect to specific individuals.

And to the topic of the diaspora. "For the first time, Ukrainians around the world will feel themselves not as a diaspora and not just people of" Ukrainian origin ", but as people of Ukrainian citizenship. Equal Ukrainians. There are 65 million of us. And this is also a part of independence when people with equal rights drive on smooth roads,"  Zelensky said in the Rada.

But immediately there are several points that discredit this idea. First, the authorities mean by the diaspora not all Ukrainians living abroad, but only those who settled in the USA, Canada and the EU countries. We are not talking about Ukrainians in the Russian Federation, of whom there are about 5 million, and this is the largest Ukrainian diaspora in the world.

"It smells of neo-Nazism. I think that you really need to work with the diaspora, but with all of them. And dividing Ukrainians into right and wrong is contrary to common sense. This is a strange position of the president, who should unite Ukraine," says Andriy Telizhenko, a member of the Ukrainian diplomatic mission in Washington.

Obviously, the same fate awaits not only "Russian" Ukrainians, but also our ethnic citizens living in Hungary, Poland and Belarus. And this despite the fact that in aggregate in these countries the Ukrainian diaspora is much larger than the "American" and "Canadian".

"The idea is good. It has been implemented in almost all EU countries on the basis of treaties between states. But in the form in which Zelensky proposes it, it makes no sense. After all, he offers dual citizenship to residents of the United States, Canada, Britain - those people for whom Ukrainian citizenship is not necessary, "political scientist Kyrylo Molchanov notes in a commentary on 112ua.tv.

But even so, there is one more "but". In fact, it turned out that for even those representatives of the diaspora who are "allowed" to become Ukrainians by their passports it will not be easy to do. To obtain a Ukrainian passport, you will have to return to Ukraine for permanent residence (at least 5 years in Ukraine). That is, you cannot live in the United States or Canada and at the same time obtain a Ukrainian passport.

Also, there are no special preferences for those who have Ukrainian roots, who identify themselves as Ukrainian by nationality, but neither he nor his parents / grandparents lived on Ukrainian territory in 1991. We are talking about the descendants of the Ukrainians who emigrated at the beginning and middle of the last century. They also need to return to Ukraine and live here for at least 5 years to obtain a Ukrainian passport. Let's think about how many people will be willing to move to Ukraine from Canada for permanent residence for the sake of a passport that will give them nothing.

So why did Zelensky raise this topic at all?

For PR and support of the West

Since the conditions for obtaining Ukrainian citizenship by representatives of the diaspora are written out rather harshly, it is hardly worth expecting a large flow of people wishing to get a Ukrainian passport. But some will benefit from it. Having a Ukrainian passport with you will make it easier for individual businessmen to do business in our country, come to Ukraine for any period of time (now you need to renew your entry) or buy Ukrainian land (there are restrictions on the purchase of shares for foreign citizens).

And Zelensky, in turn, will provide himself with additional support from the West.

“The president is“ pleasing ”the diaspora on the issue of citizenship in order to get their support in the upcoming elections and the support of the lobbies among Western governments. He wants to have the support of the West, "says Andriy Telizhenko.

Zelensky announced his intentions to involve Ukrainians abroad in the processes taking place inside the country during his communication with the Ukrainian diaspora in the United States. They say that pressure from the international community is necessary, "everyone who can do at least something to restore Ukraine with all Ukrainians and territories." Zelensky urged Ukrainians abroad to do everything possible to achieve this.

Related: Ukraine to introduce economic passports: What does the world practice say?

Telizhenko notes: the leadership of the Ukrainian diaspora in the United States "fell" under the authority and will receive certain rewards for convincing other representatives of the diaspora of the benefits of obtaining a Ukrainian passport. We are talking about Ukrainian land, business and various privileges, for example, tax incentives.

At the same time, opponents of the president admit that this initiative was also conceived with the aim of getting at least some votes for Zelensky in future elections. Now the diaspora is not Zelensky's electorate. But here it is worth returning to the fact that it is unlikely that the issuance of Ukrainian passports will be massive, and therefore the electoral argument is rather controversial.

For new expats

According to the current legislation, the holder of passports of two or more states does not have the right to work in the civil service, in many government agencies (even without the status of a civil servant) and to be appointed to political government positions. This is also stated in the presidential bill. But with one important difference: Zelensky's initiative contains a rule that if a person is unable to withdraw from foreign citizenship, does not know where the consular department is located, or cannot, for whatever reason, reach it to submit an application, then it still retains Ukrainian citizenship. In other words, if a person has another passport, let it be.

The new rule will open a Pandora's box, when every high-ranking foreign person can hide behind the fact that "for some reason, he cannot renounce foreign citizenship." This means that nothing prevents him from legally occupying one of the country's ministerial posts. That is, the president removes responsibility from those officials who already have several passports, and actually legalizes foreigners in government positions.

"This is done with one goal: so that the residents of these states (the United States, Canada and the EU countries, - ed.) can obtain a Ukrainian passport and work in the government, the supervisory board," political analyst Kyrylo Molchanov notes.

Lawyer Rostyslav Kravets agrees with this. The expert notes that such measures may be taken under pressure from the West.

“Can't we choose a SAP prosecutor? Tomorrow an Estonian or Lithuanian CIA officer will arrive, he will be given a Ukrainian passport, and he will work. This will become a reality thanks to the new bill. They will have carte blanche, "the expert says in a commentary on 112ua.tv.

How will the second passport be checked?

A number of the provisions of the draft law are declarative, the mechanism for their implementation is not provided. The question of checking the availability of a second passport is no exception. It is understood that this will be done by the State Migration Service, which is responsible for maintaining a unified demographic register. So, in a card with the data of each Ukrainian, the service will record information about whether he has other citizenships. However, it is impossible to guarantee that this information is verified.

In other words, whoever is caught on dual citizenship will be limited in the right to be elected, work in the civil service, etc. And whoever does not show two passports will be able to use them calmly.

It is another matter if a person lied about the absence of another citizenship when he received a Ukrainian passport, or, already having a Ukrainian passport in his hands, tried to present himself in communication with the state as a foreigner (for example, when crossing the border). In these cases, the bill clearly states that such a deception can lead to the loss of citizenship.

Citizens who have a high "assessment of the threat to national security" can also be left without citizenship. But at the same time, it is not noted who will assess this threat and by what procedure its level will be determined.

***

One of the main questions remains: how the financial side of multiple citizenship will be regulated. But officials have not yet announced their vision. At the same time, observing the experience of other countries, it can be assumed that in the future Ukraine will adjust the agreements on the avoidance of double taxation. So a person will be able to decide for himself where to pay taxes. And, accordingly, he will receive a pension in the country in which he replenishes the pension fund.

Related: Russian Foreign Minister wants to force Ukraine to comply with Minsk agreements

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