In the third and final reading yesterday, the Latvian parliament approved amendments to its citizenship law. Details and voting tallies are not immediately available, but the changes clearly enable most Soviet-era settlers to acquire Latvian citizenship easily. Russia had pressed for adoption of these changes, enlisting European Union support along the way.
The amendments abolish the system of “naturalization windows”–that is, qualifications related to the duration of residency in Latvia. Consequently, all residents not citizens of another country (meaning, in most such cases, Russia) may apply for Latvian citizenship immediately. All children born in Latvia after August 21, 1991 to residents who do not have Latvian or “another country’s” citizenship, are now entitled to become Latvian citizens automatically on reaching the age of 15, merely at parental request. This amendment eliminates the requirement that the children be conversant with the Latvian language. The language requirement is also reportedly being eased or eliminated for some categories of adult applicants.
Fatherland and Freedom, the party of Prime Minister Guntars Krasts, seeks reconsideration of these changes by putting them to a national referendum. Although Krasts’ cabinet of ministers supported the amendments and indeed contributed to the drafting, F&F deputies and others fear that the results can thwart the stated goal of achieving an inclusive society. Immediately after the voting, opponents gathered enough signatures on a proposal which sets in motion the procedure for calling a national referendum. (BNS, June 22)
MERI AND ADAMKUS URGE STEADY ENLARGEMENT OF NATO.