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Tuesday, 12 March 2013 17:36

Too small to exclude

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Various opinions are doing the rounds on the internet and other forms of media with regard to the issue of dual citizenship in Lithuania.

For those unfamiliar, the Lithuanian constitution limits dual citizenship. It is given in extremely rare cases, either to those who are descendants of Lithuanian citizens who fled Lithuania between 1940 and 1990, or is granted by the President, who can bestow citizenship in honor of a person’s efforts done on behalf of Lithuania.

While the issue of dual citizenship is not unique to any particular country, advocates point out that it is becoming a critically important question to Lithuania because of its population size.

And they have a point.

Understanding the issue at stake begins with some numbers.

Lithuania's population peaked in 1989 with about 3.7 million people in the country. According to the latest estimates (2012), the country's population has shrunk to below 3 million, representing a near 20 percent drop in two decades.

It is important to note that emigration, not a negative natural balance was among the strongest factors in this process.

What are the implications of these figures?

The flight of the Lithuanians abroad has direct consequences on demographics in general and not only on the migration balance. Those that leave are, on average, younger than those who stay. Thus, their departure also lowers the birth rate. Not to mention that many of these Lithuanian emigrants, after having gotten a diploma in the best schools in Vilnius, Kaunas or KlaipdÄ—da, go "offer" their talents to the United Kingdom or Ireland.

But most importantly, a lasting declining trend will lead, in time, if nothing is done, to a total disappearance of the population. This should happen in couple of hundreds of years, according to simple projections.

To change this trend, the government must to implement series of programs. One of the programs should be to keep emigrants engaged with the hope that one day they will return home.

Here comes the issue of dual citizenship.

Some who oppose it see citizenship and political loyalty to the state as inseparable matter. Others fear foreign interference by citizens belonging to the adversary.

All these fears might well be rational, but it is magnitude of immigration that should force the nation to think outside-the-box.

It should regard dual citizenship not as a problem for coherence of the nation and the state, but rather as a possibility, ranging from simple pragmatic tolerance to active encouragement.

Actually such thinking is not that original.

In recent decades, the number of countries that allow, and in the case of many immigrant sending countries, encourage, their nationals to hold multiple citizenships has exploded. Though this was once a relatively rare occurrence, there are currently up to 100 countries that now allow some sort of multiple citizenships.

Main reasons behind these changes have been attributed to changing relationships between individual nation-states, especially well observed in the case of the European Union, and second, altered relations between states and citizens.

In that respect, why not consider Israel as a model?  One should admire the systematic and highly organized way in which the State of Israel pooled the resources of its powerful diaspora to build its land into a world superpower.

If we look at the kinds of programs established for the Jewish diaspora to cultivate support for the homeland, we can learn much. For example, it provides dual citizenship, rightly thinking that it helps to tie Jewish people living overseas to their home country, advance their overall participation in its political, economic and social life, and finally enhance their self-esteem and self-respect

If much bigger nations cannot afford to dismiss its people, why can Lithuania?

After all, this is all we have.

I am sure that the problems of conflicting laws, rights, and duties regarding taxation, family rights, etc. can be solved by referring to the state of habitual residence and/or through bilateral or multilateral treaties.

And if one has doubts about the loyalty of dual citizens, it is better for the sake of the nation’s survival to have a situation where Lithuanians, scattered around the world, keep burgundy-colored passports in their pockets and emotional attachment to the homeland than a deserted country with very few people in it.

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