ERR News – Senior cabinet members commented on January 30, on a case involving a naturalized Estonian citizen, a 13-year-old girl, who ended up with Russian citizenship as well – an illegal situation under Estonian law – due to an application filed by her father.
Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said the Kohta-Järve resident with two passports should not be “insulted” by stripping her of Estonian citizenship, while Interior Minister Ken-Marti Vaher took a tougher line, saying not removing Estonian citizenship would set a bad precedent. President Toomas Hendrik Ilves also weighed in, via Facebook, saying he hoped for a compromise.
The comments came after coalition parties voted down a Social Democratic amendment on January 29, in Parliament that would allow people to keep Estonian citizenship if they prove that they could not renounce their other nationality for reasons beyond their control.
The story of the girl was broken by weekly Eesti Ekspress last week.
Having been naturalized under simplified procedure in Estonia, the girl’s father took Russian Federation citizenship in 2009, and at the consul’s suggestion, also applied on behalf of his daughter, not knowing that dual citizenship is not allowed under Estonian law. The proceedings in the girl’s case were launched by an eagle-eyed border guard official who spotted the second passport during a border crossing.
The Estonian Constitution prohibits the state from stripping people of citizenship gained by birth. But it obligates the state to take immediate action in the case of naturalized persons who have acquired dual citizenship.
Ansip said at the Cabinet press conference that the Police and Border Guard Administration had only one possible move, and that was to launch proceedings. But he said the proceedings should be delayed until the girl turns 18.
“This could be arranged […] so we don’t cause psychological trauma to a young person. It’s not in the interests of the state to create additional people who are unsympathetic toward the Republic of Estonia.”
In his Facebook post, Ilves had also called for a grace period until the girl turns 18.
But Vaher said the case was multifaceted and that citizenship was a special bond between individual and state.
“Estonian laws and legislators have proceeded from one principle in the last 20 years: that dual citizenship is prohibited.”
“Certainly there are a number of such parents who have applied for Estonian citizenship under simplified procedure and have not taken Russian citizenship, which is against the law.”
Making an exception “would mean that dual citizenship is allowable. I don’t support that.”
The case is not to be confused with another one involving a teen in 2012, where it was discovered that she had obtained Estonian citizenship due to an error on the part of officials. In that case, the child was allowed to keep citizenship, but the emergence of a Russian passport later on in that case complicated matters.