One hundred and fourteen members of parliament have registered draft amendments to the law on citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania to provide for the preservation of Lithuanian citizenship for people who left the country for European Union and NATO countries after Lithuanian independence in 1990 and who acquired citizenship in those countries.
The Lithuanian Jewish Community is in favor of dual citizenship for Lithuanian citizens who have emigrated, LJC chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said, “but we believe the rights of Lithuanians of Jewish origins should not be less than that of other Lithuanians. Lithuanians of Jewish origin who left Lithuania after independence for the historical homeland of Israel do not have less ties with Lithuania than those of an ethnic Lithuanian living in the European Union or the United States of America. The current draft amendments to the law on citizenship, however, would allow Lithuanians of Jewish descent who moved to the United States to hold dual citizenship, whereas Lithuanians of Jewish descent who moved to Israel after independence would not. For Litvaks in South Africa this doesn’t matter so much, because the majority of them left well before World War II,” the chairwoman commented.
“Nonetheless, there are a large number of people who left Lithuania after 1990. In light of the current geopolitical situation and current events, the geographical selection in the new draft amendment—EU and NATO countries—hardly seems rational or well-founded. This is especially true of an ethnic group which was one of the largest ethnic minorities in Lithuania but which was almost exterminated during World War II. In light of that and regarding these people, the law should make use of so-called positive discrimination instead, with the aim not of providing special rights or status to a specific group, in this case Lithuanians of Jewish ethnicity, but to redress their existing inequality with other subjects under law, in this case, other people of Lithuanian origin who left Lithuania after 1990. Criteria of concentration also apply: there is a large percentage of people in Israel who have connections and ties with Lithuania, and an interest and valid hope to hold Lithuanian citizenship,” chairwoman Kukliansky continued.
“The doctrine of Lithuanian citizenship since 1919 has lacked clarity and this continues now. The first law on Lithuanian citizenship appeared on January 9, 1919, and was amended and changed many times over. Debates as to whether the law conforms to the aspirations and hopes of the majority of Lithuanians are on-going right up to the present day,” she said.
“Currently preparations are underway to change article 7 of the law on citizenship. The draft language says a citizen of Lithuania may be a citizen of another country if he is a citizen of Lithuania and left Lithuania after March 11, 1990 and subsequently acquired citizenship in an EU or NATO member-state. In light of this geopolitical element in the language of the draft amendment, the Lithuanian Jewish Community wonders what values, principles and logic led the authors of the legislation to appreciate the Lithuanian-Israeli and partnership less than other partnerships, and to the interpretation that a Lithuanian of Jewish ethnicity living in Israel has less of a civic, social and historical relationship with Lithuania than, for example, someone who went to live in Ireland based on economic motivations,” Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky stated. She added it wasn’t fair Lithuanians of Jewish origin living in Israel have a lower legal status than that ofa compatriot living in an EU of NATO state.
Under Lithuanian law, a Lithuanian citizen is a person who has acquired or holds Lithuanian citizenship, which entails specific rights and duties and is based on a relationship with the state. The majority of Lithuanian Jewish community members have children or relatives who have gone to Israel since 1990, many of them Lithuanians of Jewish origin.