The issue of dual citizenship has been always present in Ukrainian political discourse. Some politicians support the idea of dual citizenship while others are totally against it. Both sides provide well-grounded arguments and everyone has his/her own truth. But the issue has not been settled yet. In this context the following question appears. Should Ukraine change its existing legislation regarding citizenship?
Recently President Zelensky has raised the issue about dual citizenship again while delivering his speech at the Stanford University, California, USA. According to his words, he is for providing dual citizenship in Ukraine as a concept but with certain restrictions. The President highlighted that it was a “complicated issue”, especially due to the temporary occupation of the Crimean peninsula where Russian had been granting its passports for many years and given the fact that the Russian Federation had already granted approximately 600 thousand of its passports to citizens of the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
It’s hard to not agree with this comment due to the huge number of persons who have citizenship of another country is a threat to national security. Recent history provides enough examples and not only on the part of Russia when “protection of citizens” became a base for military intervention of one state against another one. That is why the establishment of such “enclaves” with dual citizenship is extremely dangerous for Ukraine.
On the other hand, there are certain humanitarian issues. If we return to the problem of the occupied Crimea again, we will find that Russia is carrying out de-facto coercive passportization among citizens of Ukraine since it creates huge legal barriers for normal existence of those who have not received a “red book”, i.e. a Russian passport.
If we take a look at citizenship of other countries then we will see that many Ukrainians emigrate due to the poor economic situation in the country and many of them receive a permanent residence permit and after that a new citizenship. For instance, over 15 thousand Ukrainians received citizenship of the EU countries in the pre-COVID period.
Legislative activities in this direction are still going on. For example, the National Security and Defence Council authorized the Cabinet of Ministers to elaborate a draft law on persons with dual citizenship on 26 February. Meanwhile, draft laws on different options of implementing dual citizenship are reviewed in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine from time to time.
However draft laws remain draft laws and politicians will raise the issue about dual citizenship a year later. Could not the status quo remain the same?
It is a common fact that dual citizenship is prohibited in Ukraine. In fact it is not completely true though. Indeed, as for now the legislation of Ukraine does not provide our citizens with an opportunity to have a passport of another country.
Article 2 of the Law of Ukraine “On the Citizenship of Ukraine” reads as follows: “Should a citizen of Ukraine acquire a citizenship (nationality) of another state or states, then in legal relations with Ukraine, such citizen shall be acknowledged as the citizen of Ukraine only. Should an alien acquire the citizenship of Ukraine, then in legal relations with Ukraine, he shall be acknowledged as the citizen of Ukraine only”.
To put it simply it means that from the legal viewpoint Ukraine does not recognise in its relations with its own citizens the existence of other citizenships. This should not be interpreted as a prohibition of dual citizenship because withdrawal from Ukrainian citizenship does not happen automatically with acquiring citizenship of another country but only from the date of issuing the President’s decree on terminating citizenship of a certain person (although this is the reason for loss of citizenship). The Migration Service of Ukraine gives the corresponding explanation. Even if a citizen of Ukraine has acquired the citizenship of another country he/she still is not withdrawn from Ukrainian one and in legal relations with Ukraine he/she is further regarded as a national of Ukraine. That is why in fact a statement about the prohibition of dual citizenship in Ukraine is false.
A citizen of Ukraine also can not be coercively deprived of citizenship. Article 25 of the Constitution of Ukraine provides the following: “A citizen of Ukraine shall not be deprived of citizenship and of the right to change citizenship. A citizen of Ukraine shall not be expelled from Ukraine or surrendered to another state. Ukraine guarantees care and protection to its citizens who are beyond its borders”. Deprivation of citizenship of Ukraine is made only by the direct request of a person.
Certainly it should be noted that the legislation has a provision that Ukrainian citizenship is terminated if a citizen of Ukraine has voluntarily acquired the citizenship of another country. To a certain extent the provision of Article 4 of the Constitution of Ukraine guarantees that “in Ukraine there is just a single citizenship”.
However as practice shows everything is not so easy. Will every state inform Ukraine about granting citizenship for its citizen? There is no such practice at international level. Many countries do not reply to direct requests on citizenship as they consider such information confidential.
So, in fact a single legal procedure to deprive a person, who has acquired another citizenship, of Ukrainian one is via providing an appropriate application by this person with a request to deprive him/her of Ukrainian citizenship due to having obtained another one. Then the corresponding President’s order follows. Other mechanisms either do not work or contradict the legislation and the Constitution of Ukraine.
As for now it should be stated that Ukraine de-facto does not have the absolute prohibition of dual citizenship. Why then should the status quo be violated causing unpredictable results? Currently Ukraine does not recognize other than Ukrainian citizenship among its citizens and this legal ambiguity is very comfortable for our state in conditions of hybrid war with Russia and existence of the occupied territories. If Ukraine decides to choose a more well defined legal position such as the complete prohibition or allowing dual citizenship it will have certain consequences such as a massive passportization of Ukrainian citizens by other states or stating that Ukraine has abandoned its own citizens that may be spread by other countries as well (especially Russia). Such probable consequences will weaken Ukraine’s positions in conditions of hybrid war and will contradict its national interests.