On October 18, the parliament of Lithuania decided to hold a referendum to change the constitution in order to allow more Lithuanians to have dual citizenship. The referendum will be administered on May 12 and 26, simultaneous with the presidential and European Parliament elections. Legislators were hopeful that holding the referendum during the elections would ensure a high participation rate needed to make the constitutional amendment.
According to the decree on the mandatory referendum, Lithuanian citizens will be voting on the adoption of the following text for article 12 of the Constitution:
“Citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania is acquired by birth or on other grounds specified by constitutional law. Citizen of the Republic of Lithuania by birth, who has acquired the nationality of a state that meets the criteria selected by Lithuania’s European and transatlantic integration, does not lose citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania. In other cases, the citizen of the Republic of Lithuania may not be simultaneously a citizen of another state, except as provided by constitutional law. The procedure for the acquisition and deprivation of citizenship establishes a constitutional law.”
Currently, the Constitution states that Lithuanian citizenship is acquired by birth except in certain cases established by law and that no person may be a citizen of Lithuania and another country or state at the same time, except in special cases. This provision of the Constitution can only be changed by a referendum.
A number of people were able to successfully get dual Lithuanian citizenship by descent, which was considered to be an exception and allowed by the constitution. However, interpretation of the constitution has changed a number of times during the last decade and as a result, the eligibility criteria for single and dual citizenship are shifting as well. In some cases, applicants for dual citizenship could not obtain it anymore due to sudden changes in the interpretation of the constitution and citizenship laws.
This change in the constitution is necessitated by a large number of Lithuanians living abroad. Emigration was one of the main reasons why the population in Lithuania decreased from 3.7 million people in 1990 to 2.8 million in 2017. Many Lithuanians living abroad want to keep their Lithuanian citizenship even if they acquire citizenship of another country because of the benefits they can get from being a citizen of an EU member state. But this is currently not allowed by the constitution.
Amending the constitution would allow finalizing the Law on Citizenship of Lithuania so that it would not contradict the constitution anymore as more people restore their dual Lithuanian citizenship by descent.