Benedek Farkas (LL.M) exclusively for SouthFront
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has criticized Moscow’s decision to streamline the procedure of granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainians.
The new Russian law provides for granting Russian citizenship to Ukrainians on the grounds of a notarized document containing the renunciation of Ukrainian citizenship.
“According to the current Ukrainian legislation, the only document verifying the fact of the termination of Ukrainian citizenship by means of both the renunciation and the loss of it is the Ukrainian president’s relevant decree,” the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said adding that it sees the decision as “the continuation of legal discrimination and abuse of the rights of Ukrainian citizens living or working in Russia because of various circumstances.”
Furthermore, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry called on Ukrainians to ignore the opportunity to get Russian citizenship and warned against visiting Russia.
“In this regard, we urge Ukrainian citizens not to succumb to such provocations and once again warn against visiting Russia,” it said.
In other words, the Kiev government is scared by a large flow of Ukrainian nationals that now will seek to obtain Russian citizenship.
The matter of nationality or citizenship (further in text these terms are used interchangeably) as a legal instrument regulating the relationship between the individual person and the state have always been the province of national law.
However, in recent decades, the question of nationality de facto became supra-national due to the the ongoing processes of globalization, democratization and the Western powers’ declarative support of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The post-1991 geopolitical changes raised multiple issues and conflicts in the field of private international law, particularly relating to nationality. The US assumed the role of the world’s policeman and started ignoring the nationality and actual residence of people opposing to the US regime. The US implements the same approach when issuing green cards and granting US citizenship. The US ignores the previous relations including mutual obligations between the individual and the country of current nationality. In the first instance, the Americans are citing their burden of promoting justice around the world, as they understand it. In the second, they invoke human rights and fundamental freedoms, and certain agreed norms of international law.
There are a number of key documents in international law which touch upon the questions of nationality. They are, first of all, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Nationality from 1997. These documents lay out the fundamental principles prescribing and protecting the rights and freedoms of man and citizen while interacting with the state on questions relating to nationality.
The European Convention on Nationality, signed in Strasbourg on November 6, 1997, among others by Ukraine, states:
Article 8 – Loss of nationality at the initiative of the individual
(1) Each State Party shall permit the renunciation of its nationality provided the persons concerned do not thereby become stateless.
(2) However, a State Party may provide in its internal law that renunciation may be effected only by nationals who are habitually resident abroad.
In other words, the state cannot prevent an individual from voluntarily assuming a different citizenship if the individual had ceased living on the territory of a state or is no longer living there.
The other key international document, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, states:
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.
Thus any regime which calls itself democratic has no right to limit the individual right to renounce citizenship by making the appropriate declaration. This right may only be limited if the individual continues to live on the territory of the state in question.
However, Ukraine’s regime has long demonstrated that it is in no way democratic. The low level of proficiency of Ukrainian officials and politicians, corruption, absence of own position on key national questions have long became the object of satire among their European colleagues.
One should also add that the withdrawal from citizenship has nothing in common with renunciation of citizenship. National laws contain no provisions for unilateral renunciation of citizenship without the approval by the state.
Withdrawal from citizenship assumes the individual desire to abandon one’s citizenship and the state’s agreement to accept it.
However, as the documents cited above plainly show, the individual also has the right of “renunciation of citizenship.”
Naturally, an individual declaration renouncing citizenship has no judicial consequences from the perspective of the country of citizenship. Moreover, from the point of view of the country whose citizenship the individual accepts, the individual, or the international community, the stance of the country of original citizenship is if no importance.
This is precisely the reason Russian Federation Foreign Ministry noted the necessity of providing a notarized “renunciation of citizenship,” which is simply a written individual declaration which requires no reaction from the original country of citizenship.
Therefore it is nonsense for Ukraine Foreign Ministry to say that the Russian government has supposedly appropriated the right of another country to determine the procedure for “withdrawal from citizenship.” Russia, like other states, has no business with Ukraine’s national laws regulating withdrawal from citizenship.