Ukraine might allow for dual citizenship: What would it mean for officials and diaspora?

Author : Natalia Lebed

Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers notifies that the specified working groups are now working on several concepts of bills related to the introduction of dual citizenship in Ukraine
12:58, 8 November 2019

Open source

Ukraine’s Cabinet of Ministers notifies that the specified working groups are now working on several concepts of bills related to the introduction of dual citizenship in Ukraine. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vasyl Bodnar said this in an interview with Ukrinform.

“The first vision,” he said, “is the abolition in the current legislation of the restrictions that now force Ukrainians to lose their citizenship to obtain another or, conversely, do not allow people of Ukrainian origin to receive our passports.” Whereas the second approach is expanding the status of a foreign Ukrainian.

"Someone may not want to obtain another citizenship, someone does not give such a right to the legislation of the country of residence. Therefore, we are working to expand the range of rights that this certificate provides. Now it is only visa-free, unlimited residence and the possibility of training," the deputy minister said.

Expanding the status of a foreign Ukrainian will give certain preferences for doing business and participating in the work of various bodies. So in any case, Bodnar sees the situation. “I’m not talking about state bodies, but rather about local self-government, various foundations. In addition, there are some privileges for free learning the Ukrainian language, professional education. This path is also being worked out at the interdepartmental level,” the official said.

Related: Russian Federation speeds up issuance of passports in Donetsk and Luhansk regions

Caring for the Diaspora is, of course, good. In this context, it should be noted that the views of the authorities on dual citizenship have undergone a significant evolution.

Poroshenko’s approach

The team of President Zelensky, under whose auspices legislative changes regarding citizenship might be introduced, is the most liberal in this matter. At least the government is not afraid to discuss this issue. Meanwhile, a few years ago, the perception of dual citizenship was mostly negative.

So, for example, on February 7, 2014, then-MP Oleksandr Bryginets registered a draft amendment regarding the establishment of criminal liability for non-reporting by a citizen of Ukraine of obtaining foreign citizenship. The Bryginets bill offered a very harsh punishment for the owners of several passports - up to ten years in prison.

Later, in July of the same 2014, MP Mykola Katerynchuk also initiated criminal liability for dual citizenship. Katerynchuk justified this need by the fact that the presence of citizens of other countries in state and local authorities is unacceptable. It is interesting that Katerynchuk’s initiative took place even before a massive "landing" of foreign specialists who received ministerial and governor portfolios landed in Ukraine.

Related: EU ambassadors discuss Russia’s passport issuance for residents of the occupied regions, - Jozwiak

However, the case did not reach the introduction of criminal liability. But on June 1, 2016, amendments to the legislation governing the civil service came into force, which stated that a civil servant has no right to work in Ukraine if he has other citizenship than Ukrainian. Petro Poroshenko undertook to solve this problem.

During his presidency, the issue of dual citizenship acquired new emphasis. He was generous in granting Ukrainian citizenship when it came to attracting permanent specialists from abroad, whose history we recently mentioned. Then all Georgian, Baltic, and American "reformers" received citizenship of Ukraine.

In these stories, it is most outrageous that citizenship as such has been transformed into a factor of encouragement or punishment. Moreover, punishment is selective.

Because if you go check out the previous or current MPs and officials, you can recall that Yefym Zvyagilsky has an Israeli passport, Odesa Mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov has Russian and Greek passports, and notorious hero of medical and judicial epics Roman Nasirov has British citizenship. This list can be continued indefinitely because every second official and MPs took care of the "alternate airport" in time.

Related: European Commission develops rules of identification of Russian passports issued to Donbas residents

At one time, same Poroshenko tried to resolve issues of citizenship by submitting his bill on this subject to parliament. But his document (registered under number 8297) only strengthened liability for persons who had more than one citizenship. Subsequently, the ex-president withdrew his bill, and no alternative was offered to him.

What does the law say

The constitution gives the president the right to "accept the citizenship of Ukraine" and terminate it, however, Article 4 of the Basic Law states that "the grounds for acquiring and terminating citizenship are determined by law." And the law does not allow dual citizenship but also does not directly prohibit it. And this is a very important point.

Article 2 of the Law of Ukraine "On Citizenship" reads as follows: "If a citizen of Ukraine acquired citizenship of another state or states, then in legal relations with Ukraine he is recognized only as a citizen of Ukraine. If a foreigner has acquired citizenship in Ukraine, then in legal relations with Ukraine he is recognized only as a citizen of Ukraine. "

This should not be regarded as a ban on dual citizenship since the loss of citizenship of Ukraine does not automatically occur with the acquisition of citizenship of another state. For this, we need a separate presidential decree. That is, even if a Ukrainian received the citizenship of another state or states, no one will confiscate his Ukrainian passport from him.

However, there is a sanction for concealing the fact of acquiring citizenship of another country. And the fine amounts to 7-20 USD. If the officials of state authorities or local self-government have dual citizenship, they are obliged to pay a fine of 35-70 USD," the amendments to the law "On Citizenship," adopted in October 2012, read.

The civilized world looks at a similar problem differently, and its liberality is not least determined by the possibility of receiving bonus tax dividends - from "new" citizens who currently live and work in this country. Anyway, the trend is now expanding the rights and freedoms of the individual, and not narrowing them to the format of modern Russia or Belarus.

Related: EU not to grant visas to Donbas residents with Russian passport

All these points relate to the discussion of the acceptability or unacceptability of dual citizenship. That is, to the question that remains open today due to the lack of updated legislation.

Prior to its introduction, the current government "has finally matured," says Dmytro Kuleba, deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration.

“Millions of people left. And we must maintain their connection with Ukraine. And passport, citizenship is one of these connecting links. I am glad that there is an evolution in this matter. And I hope that it will be supported by society, because the ban on dual citizenship was adopted in one context, and now the context is completely different," Kuleba says.

Kuleba really attaches particular importance to the preservation of Ukrainian passports among our migrants. All of them, according to the official, can become "agents of influence" of Ukraine in other states. Except, of course, Russia.

The words about "agents of influence" sound, of course, beautifully. But today, no one has yet seen these two concepts of citizenship law that are being worked on in government. But despite the ignorance of all the details, one thing can be stated. The issue of dual citizenship is both complex and controversial. And also carrying certain threats. This does not mean that it should not be discussed. It only means that its presentation should be approached as carefully as possible.

Related: Germany denies information about issuance of visa to Donbas citizens with Russian passports

Risks and pitfalls

In general, you can understand those families (primarily from Western Ukraine) who are interested in obtaining another passport, because it eliminates the difficulties with employment in the EU countries. It is primarily about Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. Now, according to the state employment service, more than 5 million Ukrainians are working abroad. Perhaps even much more.

Moreover, the largest number of employees (36%) is in Poland. Over the past year, 5% of their total number worked in the Czech Republic and Germany, 3% each in Italy and other countries of Western Europe. Unfortunately, Russia was second after Poland. 25% of Ukrainian citizens, that is, one in four of those who went abroad to raise family well-being, chose the Russian Federation for this mission.

Actually, this is the great danger of dual citizenship. This danger is so significant that the interests of the state, perhaps, should outweigh the interests of the families of labor migrants. It is known that the Russian Federation has learned to cleverly use citizens who have passports of the Russian Federation, but who live in the territory of the former Soviet republics. During the tragic events of 2008 in Georgia, when Russian troops entered there, Putin said at a meeting of the Security Council that he was obliged to protect the life and dignity of Russian citizens, wherever they were.

By the way, in 2008, experts warned of threats of mass issuance of Russian passports in Crimea. Ten years ago, when nothing was yet foretelling a war with the Russian Federation, 15-20% of Russian citizens lived on the peninsula. Subsequently, their number only increased. Russia used this trump card during the annexation of Crimea. This also applies to the eastern regions of Ukraine, where Russian passports were also missing.

In addition to Russia, Romania and Hungary are also “generous” in the distribution of passports to Ukrainian citizens. So far, these countries do not create much discomfort, but nothing is done in public policy for nothing. And although it’s hard to imagine such a thing, hypothetically these neighbors of ours can also claim (sometimes, in the uncertain future) their part of the “historical territories” on the sole ground that a certain number of their citizens live there.

Related: Mass issuance of Hungarian, Romanian, Polish, Russian passports to Ukraine’s citizens investigated

To prohibit or not to prohibit?

And if we take into account all of the above, the idea of ​​dual citizenship might not be liked by everyone. "I do not see any advantages in such an idea, given the circumstances that everyone is well aware of. Russian aggression, some chauvinistic forces in certain countries located west of us, the postcoloniality of Ukrainian society, when the concept of statehood was actually suppressed in consciousness. “All these things make, in my opinion, the thesis of multi-citizenship in the current circumstances is very dangerous,” Volodymyr Ogryzko, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine in 2007-2009, notes.

But Kost Bondarenko, the founder of the analytical center "Gorshenin Institute," says that no matter how you say it, you will have to take into account the huge number of people who already live in Ukraine with double or even triple citizenship. The latter becomes a kind of sign of belonging to the political elite, Bondarenko remarks.

“It’s not necessary to fight with dual citizenship. In the context of globalization, the concept of citizenship turns into a kind of anachronism. I think that it would be a good way to legalize the institution of dual citizenship. This practice exists in many civilized states, and in some countries of Europe and Asia, dual citizenship is the absolute norm," says the expert.

Related: Over 33,000 residents of self-proclaimed 'DNR' get Russian passports

Meanwhile, Vadym Karasiov, the director of the Institute for Global Strategies, is convinced that a middle ground should be sought in this matter. “Perhaps in the territories bordering the Russian Federation, it is advisable to prohibit dual citizenship (for example, Russian),” he suggests. But "regarding Polish, Hungarian, Romanian citizenship, it is necessary to act more calmly. It is necessary to consider that these are countries of the European Union. In this situation, a compromise can be found," Karasiov suggests.

Well, the Ukrainian government is searching for a compromise and reconciliation between the various concepts of dual citizenship. Hope, the result would not disappoint us.

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