The Seimas of Lithuania on Tuesday gave its initial backing to a proposal to call a binding referendum on dual citizenship which would be held on the same day as the general elections next October.
© DELFI / Tomas Vinickas

Fifty-eight MPs voted in favour of the motion, nine were against and 30 abstained.

"We cannot punish people for leaving the country by stripping them of citizenship. We must cherish every citizen, every citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, wherever they are, and preserve political and civic ties with them," Eligijus Masiulis, chairman of the opposition Liberal Movement, said while presenting his party's proposal.

He also cited figures from Statistics Lithuania, showing that almost 800,000 Lithuanian citizens have emigrated since 1990.

The bill will now go to parliamentary committees and commissions for further consideration.

The Liberal Movement suggests recognizing as void the second part of the Constitution's Article 12, stating that "with the exception of individual cases provided for by law, no one may be a citizen of both the Republic of Lithuania and another state at the same time."

The constitutional provision on dual citizenship may be amended only if more than half of eligible voters in Lithuania who are on the voters' list vote in favour. Foreign Lithuanians are concerned that the planned referendum will fail due to such stringent requirements and want laws to be amended in Lithuania for dual citizenship to be allowed without amending the Constitution. The Constitutional Court, however, says such changes would be unconstitutional.

Now in Lithuania, dual citizenship is allowed only for citizens who left the country during the occupation period and also their descendants but not for people who emigrated after Lithuania restored its independence.

Critics say, however, that citizens must be loyal to one country only and are also concerned that members of ethnic minorities in Lithuania might seek citizenship of foreign countries and that Russia might take advantage of that.

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