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On the interpretation of the provisions of the Constitutional Court’s rulings of 30 December 2003 and 13 November 2006 and its decision of 13 March 2013 that are related to the prohibition of dual (multiple) citizenship

The decision of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania of 20 October 2017

ON THE INTERPRETATION OF THE PROVISIONS OF THE ACTS OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT RELATED TO THE PROHIBITION OF DUAL (MULTIPLE) CITIZENSHIP

Summary

In this decision, subsequent to the petition of the Seimas, the Constitutional Court interpreted the provisions of its rulings of 30 December 2003 and 13 November 2006 and its decision of 13 March 2013: the provision of Article 12 of the Constitution that a person may be a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania and, at the same time, a citizen of another state only in individual cases provided for by law means that such cases established by law can be very rare (individual), that cases of dual citizenship must be particularly rare – exceptional, also that, it is not permitted to establish any such legal regulation under which cases of dual citizenship would be not particularly rare exceptions, but a widespread phenomenon; under the Constitution, also such an expansive interpretation of the provisions of the Law on Citizenship is impermissible, under which dual citizenship would be not individual, particularly rare exceptions, but a widespread phenomenon. The Court also interpreted the provision of the decision of 13 March 2013 according to which the specified provisions of the above-mentioned rulings mean that, unless amendments to the Constitution are made under the procedure specified therein, a law may not prescribe that citizens who departed from the Republic of Lithuania to reside in other states after the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Lithuania on 11 March 1990 and acquired citizenship of those states may be citizens of the Republic of Lithuania and  another state at the same time.

The Constitutional Court was requested to interpret whether the changed factual circumstances, under the Constitution, had given rise to the preconditions for such a legal regulation under which citizens of the Republic of Lithuania could, at the same time, be citizens of the member states of the European Union (EU) or/and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

The Constitutional Court stated that, according to the Constitution, as long as Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution is not amended by referendum, the Seimas may not establish by law that citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who departed from the Republic of Lithuania after the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Lithuania on 11 March 1990 and acquired citizenship of a member state of the European Union and/or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation may be citizens of the Republic of Lithuania and another state at the same time.

By arguing its decision, the Constitutional Court emphasised that, when the final acts of the Constitutional Court are interpreted, the official constitutional doctrine may not be modified and that the social and demographic changes that took place after the adoption of the final acts, as well as arguments of political expediency, may not serve as a basis for modifying the provisions of the official constitutional doctrine. Thus, while interpreting the provisions of its rulings of 30 December 2003 and 13 November 2006 and its decision of 13 March 2013, the Constitutional Court may not interpret the provisions of the official constitutional doctrine formulated in these legal acts in a different way and it may not deviate from other provisions of the reasoning and operative parts of these acts. In addition, social and demographic changes, as well as arguments of political expediency, may not serve as a basis for modifying the provisions of the official constitutional doctrine. Therefore, the circumstances specified in the petition of the Seimas, the petitioner, – the Republic of Lithuania became a member of the EU and NATO and a great number of the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania departed from Lithuania to reside in other countries and acquired citizenship of other states; the number of marriages of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who departed to other states with citizens of other states has increased, and children born in these marriages also acquired citizenship of another state; as the United Kingdom has decided to exit from the EU, a lot of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who reside there may seek to become citizens of the United Kingdom; and, if they become UK citizens, they would lose citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania, etc. – may not as such change the content of the regulation provided for in Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court recalled that Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution consolidates the general prohibition on holding citizenship of both the Republic of Lithuania and another state: “no one may be a citizen of both the Republic of Lithuania and another state at the same time”. However, this prohibition of dual citizenship consolidated in the Constitution is not absolute: under Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution, a law may and must provide for individual cases when a person may be a citizen of both the Republic of Lithuania and another state at the same time. The wording “with the exception of individual cases provided for by law” of Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution means that the law regulating citizenship relationships may establish only exceptional cases when a person may be a citizen of both the Republic of Lithuania and another state at the same time, i.e. the legal regulation must be such under which the cases of dual (multiple) citizenship would be an exception to the prohibition on this citizenship expressed by the formula “no one may” and not a rule denying this prohibition; under the Constitution, it is not allowed to establish such a legal regulation under which the cases of dual citizenship would be not particularly exceptional cases but a widespread phenomenon. In establishing the grounds for the acquisition of citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania and regulating of the procedure for the acquisition and loss of citizenship, the legislature has discretion. However, the legislature may not deny the nature and meaning of the institution of citizenship, it must pay regard to the constitutional requirement that a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania may at the same time be a citizen of another state only in individual cases established by law. Under the Constitution, the legislature may not follow the attitude that the cases of dual (multiple) citizenship need to be limited.

In the Constitutional Court’s decision of 13 March 2013, it is held that the legal regulation under which citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who departed from the Republic of Lithuania to reside in other states after the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Lithuania on 11 March 1990 and acquired citizenship of those states could be citizens of the Republic of Lithuania and another state at the same time would create the preconditions for dual (multiple) citizenship to be not a particularly rare exception, but a widespread phenomenon; thus, such a legal regulation would be incompatible with Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution. In this case, the Constitutional Court noted that there is no ground to assess differently the possibility of establishing, by means of a law, a legal regulation under which the of dual (multiple) citizenship would be granted to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who departed to member states of the EU and/or NATO after the specified date and acquired citizenship of those states; on the contrary, such a legal regulation would also create the preconditions for a large part of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania to hold simultaneously citizenship of other states, i.e. for dual (multiple) citizenship to be not a particularly rare exception, but a widespread phenomenon; such a legal regulation would also be incompatible with Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution.

In this context, the Constitutional Court noted that the membership of the Republic of Lithuania in the EU and NATO and international obligations related to this membership, as well as the geopolitical orientation of the State of Lithuania that is consolidated in the Constitution, do not give rise to the obligation of the Republic of Lithuania to create the preconditions for acquiring dual (multiple) citizenship by the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who departed to member states of the EU and/or NATO and acquired citizenship of those states. The Law of the European Union also does not impose any obligations on the member states to create, by means of a legal regulation, the conditions for their citizens to hold citizenship of other member states. The European Union respects the constitutional and legal traditions of its member states, including national constitutional traditions relating to the regulation of the relationships of dual (multiple) citizenship. It was also noted that the Constitutional Act on Membership of the Republic of Lithuania in the European Union does not regulate the relationships of citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania; therefore, the said act could not replace the provision of Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution, which limits dual (multiple) citizenship, and it is immaterial for the interpretation of this provision.

In the decision, it was noted that, if the legislature follows the attitude that the limitation of dual citizenship is unnecessary, it must, first of all, review the relevant provisions of the Constitution, inter alia, Article 12 thereof, and do so by following the procedure established in the Constitution. Article 12 of the Constitution, which consolidates the bases for the legal regulation of the relationships of citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania, is in Chapter I “The State of Lithuania” of the Constitution; the provisions of this chapter are under particular constitutional protection: they may be altered only by referendum. The geopolitical orientation of the State of Lithuania may also serve as a criterion for reviewing Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution.

The Constitutional Court refused to give its interpretation regarding other parts of the petition, as it assessed them as requesting an interpretation whether the established practice of the application of the legal regulation of the relationships of citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania is compatible with the Constitution and whether there is the possibility of establishing, by means of a law, a legal regulation of citizenship based on the revision (modification) of the provision of the official constitutional doctrine stating that it is not permitted to establish any such legal regulation under which cases of dual citizenship would be not particularly rare exceptions, but a widespread phenomenon as incompatible “with the legal practice that has developed in reality”.