Zelenskyy's plans for dual citizenship: Overview of bill 10425
Analyzing proposed legislation 10425, focusing on changes in migration policies related to acquiring and relinquishing Ukrainian citizenship
The primary distinction in this proposed law compared to the current one lies in the potential for simplified citizenship acceptance and acquisition.
For instance, citizens of the EU, Great Britain, the USA, Canada, Australia, and Japan may obtain Ukrainian citizenship solely by declaring recognition as a citizen of Ukraine. They are not obliged to renounce citizenship of another country, excluding Russian Federation citizenship.
Several key points come into play in this context.
1. Firstly, Article 17 in the draft law on simplified citizenship acquisition suggests that, aside from declaring recognition as a Ukrainian citizen, no additional documents need to be submitted. Other sections mention the requirement to commit to taking exams on language proficiency, understanding the Constitution, and Ukrainian history within three years.
In essence, this means there's no necessity for any significant connection with Ukraine; an individual could reside in Croatia their entire life and still become a Ukrainian citizen.
The primary concern here is the unregulated granting of citizenship. This could impact elections, effectively encouraging citizens from the EU, USA, Canada, etc., to become Ukrainian without any residency or birthplace requirements.
Consequently, individuals who have never lived in Ukraine could participate in elections for the Ukrainian Parliament or Presidency through simplified citizenship.
It's worth noting that the number of such citizens abroad might surpass the population residing in Ukraine.
In the context of hybrid warfare, there's a potential risk of Russia orchestrating a widespread acquisition of Ukrainian citizenship by foreigners. This could serve as a means for Russia to manipulate changes in power according to its interests.
2. Secondly, the introduction of this citizenship acquisition method essentially discriminates against those residing in other countries. Whether from Israel, Mexico, Korea, or New Zealand, how are they inferior to Hungarian citizens?
3. Moreover, it's essential to highlight that the approach allowing Ukrainian citizens to hold a second EU citizenship contradicts the Constitution.
The Constitution clearly states the principle of "single citizenship" in Ukraine. The term "one" is consistently interpreted as "singular and cannot be multiple."
For instance, when the Constitution declares that "the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is the only body of legislative power" (Article 75), it means that we have a sole authority, the Verkhovna Rada, authorized to enact laws; there can be no other.
The new proposed law echoes the existing definition of "single citizenship" from the current law, emphasizing that it refers exclusively to Ukrainian citizenship, precluding the existence of citizenship for administrative-territorial units.
In practical terms, this implies that there cannot be citizenship for regions like Lviv or Kharkiv under this approach.
Following the president's proposed logic, there is a potential for a "plurality of bodies of legislative power." The Constitution designates the Verkhovna Rada as the "single body of legislative power," implying its singular nature, not allowing for a Verkhovna Rada specific to a political party like Servant of the People or the oppositional party.
However, if we strictly adhere to the concept of "single citizenship," it opens the door to dual, triple, and more citizenships.
This notion is absurd, and the Constitutional Court is likely to declare the associated law unconstitutional due to its nonsensical nature.
4. The proposed law, assuming individuals can hold citizenship in addition to Ukraine, introduces unconstitutional provisions. Notably, it introduces an extra requirement - "lack of citizenship of other countries" - for those seeking public positions.
Consequently, the draft law implies that a Ukrainian citizen holding citizenship in another country can:
- Serve as a judge, including the Constitutional Court (Articles 127, 148);
- Become a member of the Verkhovna Rada (Article 76);
- Hold the position of the President of Ukraine (Article 103).
As consistently emphasized by the Constitutional Court, exceptions to constitutional norms can only be established by the Constitution itself, not by other Ukrainian laws. If Article 103 of the Constitution affirms the right for any Ukrainian citizen to become president, this extends to citizens with additional citizenship.
Consequently, proposed amendments in the Electoral Code and the Law on the Judiciary and the Status of Judges, barring individuals with multiple citizenships from specific positions, are sure to be deemed unconstitutional.
Regarding the formal aspects: Draft Law 10425 is essentially a modified version of Draft Law 6368, previously submitted by Zelenskyy in December 2021 (I submitted an alternative draft law to it). Bill 6368 hasn't been withdrawn from parliament and remains on the agenda in September 2023. At most, the profile committee revised the draft law and registered the committee draft as "d."
Draft law 6368 and the newly registered 10425 present revisions to citizenship laws. However, introducing a draft law with similar regulatory content violates established rules. To circumvent this, the President's Office changed the name of the draft law.
The options for the Office of the President include withdrawing draft law 6368, which requires a decision from the Verkhovna Rada since it's on the session agenda. Alternatively, the Rada could civilly consider draft law 6368, adopting it in the first reading and refining it to the second. Every provision could be addressed before the second reading during the consideration of draft law 6368.
The matter of multiple citizenship has already garnered attention from society and deputies. Currently, the Constitutional Court is deliberating on a constitutional submission regarding the interpretation of Article 4 of the Constitution of Ukraine, specifically the term "single citizenship."
In conclusion, instead of pursuing constitutional changes professionally, the President's Office resorts to political PR by renaming the draft law. This revives a long-discussed topic, raising questions about the practical need for such changes, especially considering the issue hasn't been prominent since 2021, especially during the ongoing war.
About the author. Mykola Knyazhytskyi, journalist, member of Ukrainian parliament.
The editors do not always share the opinions expressed by the blog authors.