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Content updated: 24-10-2017 12:02

The extension of the possibility of holding multiple citizenship is allowed only by amending the Constitution in a referendum

20-10-2017

By its decision adopted today, the Constitutional Court has stated that, according to the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, as long as Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania is not amended by referendum, the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania may not establish by law that citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who have departed from the Republic of Lithuania after the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Lithuania on 11 March 1990 and who have 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.

The Constitutional Court has refused to give its interpretation regarding the part of the petition of the Seimas in which it requested, among other things, to clarify whether “the relatively large number of persons (22 913) who, under the effective legal regulation, are citizens of the Republic of Lithuania and another state at the same time is in conflict with the legal doctrine formulated by the Constitutional Court, stipulating that ‘cases of dual citizenship should be extremely rare, exclusive’”, since, under Paragraph 1 of Article 102 and Article 105 of the Constitution, the Constitutional Court does not have the powers to examine and interpret the constitutionality of the existing actual situation. The Constitutional Court has observed that the number of persons with multiple (dual) citizenship represents 0.74 per cent of all citizens of the Republic of Lithuania.

The Constitutional Court has held on more than one occasion that, in the official interpretation of rulings and other final acts of the Constitutional Court, the official constitutional doctrine is not modified. The purpose of the interpretation of a ruling or another final act of the Constitutional Court is to explain more comprehensively such provisions and formulations of a ruling or other final act of the Constitutional Court whose meaning has given rise to some uncertainties, but not to explain how to implement the said ruling or other final act in a concrete situation. It should also be noted that the Constitutional Court is a legal rather than a political institution. Under the Constitution, the Constitutional Court decides the legal issues assigned to its competence solely on the basis of legal arguments, the official constitutional doctrine, and precedents that it has already formulated; it may not interpret its final acts by following the arguments of political expediency, the documents of political parties or other public organisations, the opinions of and assessments by politicians, political science or sociological research, or the results of public opinion polls. Otherwise, the preconditions for doubting the impartiality of the Constitutional Court may arise and a threat to its independence and the stability of the Constitution itself, including the official constitutional doctrine, may emerge.

In the context of the received petition, it needs to be noted that social and demographic changes, as well as arguments of political expediency, may not serve as the basis for modifying the provisions of the official constitutional doctrine. According to the petition of the Seimas to the Constitutional Court, the Republic of Lithuania has become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the European Union; a great number of the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania have departed from Lithuania to reside in other countries and acquired citizenship of other states; there has been an increase in the number of marriages of citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who have left for other states with citizens of other states, and children born in these marriages have acquired citizenship of other states as well; as the United Kingdom has decided to leave the European Union, numerous citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who reside there may seek to become citizens of the United Kingdom, and, should they become UK citizens, they would lose citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania, etc. Nevertheless, in this decision, the Constitutional Court stated that the content of the regulation provided for in Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution may not simply be changed by the said circumstances specified in the petition. It must be observed that, both in 2006 and 2013, when the Constitutional Court adopted the acts whose interpretation is requested by the petitioner, Lithuania was already a member of the EU and NATO. In addition, there also existed the other circumstances specified by the petitioner (emigration and marriage with citizens of other states).

In the context of the petition, it needs to be noted that, in assessing the legal regulation that could enable the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who have departed from the Republic of Lithuania to reside in other countries after 11 March 1990 to be citizens of other states without any other conditions, thus creating the preconditions for dual (multiple) citizenship to be not a very rare exception, but a widespread phenomenon, it would not matter whether it would be allowed to hold simultaneously citizenship of a member state of the European Union, that of a member state of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or citizenship of any other state.

Consequently, such a legal regulation establishing the possibility of holding dual (multiple) citizenship to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who, after the restoration of independence of the Republic of Lithuania on 11 March 1990, have left for member states of the European Union and/or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and acquired citizenship of the said states would also be incompatible with Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution.

In this context, it should be mentioned that, although the Constitution consolidates the geopolitical orientation of the State of Lithuania, the membership of the Republic of Lithuania in the European Union and in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and the international obligations related to this membership do not imply the obligation of the Republic of Lithuania to create the preconditions for acquiring dual (multiple) citizenship to the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who have left for member states of the European Union and/or the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It should also be noted that EU law does not impose any obligations on EU member states to create, by legal regulation, the conditions for their citizens to hold citizenship of other EU member states.

According to Paragraph 2 of Article 4 of the Treaty on the European Union, the Union respects the national identities of its member states, which are inseparable, among other things, from their fundamental constitutional structures. Under Paragraph 1 Article 67 of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union, “The Union shall constitute an area of freedom, security and justice with respect for fundamental rights and the different legal systems and traditions of the Member States”. The European Union, therefore, respects the constitutional and legal traditions of its member states, as well as national constitutional traditions relating to the regulation of the relations of dual (multiple) citizenship.

It should also be noted that the Constitutional Act on Membership of the Republic of Lithuania in the European Union does not regulate the relations of citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania or those of dual (multiple) citizenship; therefore, the said act could not replace the provisions of Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution, which limit dual (multiple) citizenship, and is immaterial for the interpretation of the latter.

It should be mentioned that, in its ruling of 13 November 2006, the Constitutional Court noted that citizenship of the European Union does not change the content of the national institute of citizenship of any member state; thus, it does not change the content of the institute of citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania, either; in respect to citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania, citizenship of the European Union is complementary, additional, as only a person who holds citizenship of a member state of the European Union, in this case, the Republic of Lithuania, may be a citizen of the European Union. This reaffirms that the regulation of national citizenship, including multiple citizenship, is within the discretion of each member state.

In this context, it is worth noting that, as emphasised by the Constitutional Court in its ruling of 13 November 2006 and decision of 13 March 2013, if the legislature really cultivates the attitude that the limitation of dual (multiple) citizenship is unnecessary, it must first of all start the revision of the corresponding provisions of the Constitution, inter alia, Article 12 thereof, and do that by following the procedure that is established in the Constitution itself. Consequently, without making corresponding amendments to the Constitution, i.e. without having altered Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution by referendum, it is not allowed to establish by law any such legal regulation whereby citizens of the Republic of Lithuania who have departed from the Republic of Lithuania after the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Lithuania on 11 March 1990 and have 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. The geopolitical orientation of the State of Lithuania, which is consolidated in the Constitution, may serve as a criterion for reviewing Paragraph 2 of Article 12 of the Constitution in accordance with the procedure established in the Constitution.