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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Warsaw allows dual nationality

What does it mean for Ukrainians, a favor or threat to statehood?
23 August, 2012 - 00:00

The other day Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski signed a law allowing dual nationality. According to the new legislation, an applicant for a Polish passport need not refuse the previous citizenship, as was required before. Now a voivode (governor of a province in Poland) can grant Polish nationality to a person who has resided in the country no less than three years (according to a permanent residence permit), has regular income, and knows the Polish language.

Poland attracts vast numbers of Ukrainian Gastarbeiter. However, unlike our western neighbor, Ukraine prohibits dual nationality by Constitution. Oleh VOLOSHYN, director of Information policy department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, sees no big problem there.

“Ukraine provides for sanctions in case of dual citizenship,” said Voloshyn to The Day in a telephone interview. “We have long been outspoken about this, and so have our law enforcement authorities. On the other hand, today Poland is our major ally and friend in Europe. One of the huge achievements of all Ukrainian presidents over the past two decades is the fact that the images of past enmity between Ukraine and Poland have been completely overcome. Today Ukraine has no serious opponents in Polish establishment.”

Voloshyn believes that Poland has been doing “immensely much” to help Ukraine in the EU. “We can see no anti-Ukrainian implications in this step. Loyalty to a country depends on the individual’s upbringing and degree of comfort they have in this country, rather than on formal citizenship.”

However, Andrii KALAKHAN, member of the Lutsk City Council, believes that the new law does pose a threat to Ukrainian state. “Why should Poland pass such legislation? It is a common knowledge that many Poles are working in Western Europe. The law is probably meant to fill the niche in the labor market. However, I can see threats for Ukrainians in this ease. Dual nationality is banned in Ukraine. And if a Ukrainian emigrant (today Ukrainians constitute the major part of foreigners in Poland) has Polish citizenship, on his or her return to Ukraine he or she will have to make a choice. I doubt the choice will be in favor of Ukrainian nationality. So this move on the part of Poland may effectively contribute to reducing Ukraine’s population.”

Voloshyn disagrees with this opinion. “There is no jeopardy to Ukraine. We are no North Korea and we must not keep people by force. We believe that economic growth and improvement of living standards in Ukraine will be the best guarantee against Ukrainians’ fleeing abroad. Sadly, at present many would like to emigrate, but it is purely for material reasons. We appeal, especially to national democratic forces, not to make a problem where there is none. Poland is doing this to promote Ukraine’s ascension to the EU, and thus to improve living standards in Ukraine. Moreover, if we join the EU and the Schengen area, traveling will become free, and we will not be able to control anything anymore.”

A question remains, however, how the threat of Ukrainians’ mass “defection” to Poland is linked to Ukraine’s European aspirations.

Professor Leonid ZASHKILNIAK from Ivan Franko Lviv National University shares Voloshyn’s views. According to him, the enactment of this legislation “means Poland’s aspiration to keep Ukraine in European space.” “As far as legal norms are concerned, these are matters of Ukrainian and international legislation. Since it is contrary to the Constitution of Ukraine, it is most probably a gesture which would not sever the link between Poland and the EU, on the one hand, and Ukraine, on the other.”

“Introduction of dual nationality in Poland is a manifestation of globalization processes. Many Poles move abroad, whereas gastarbeiters keep coming to Poland en masse,” comments Andrzej SZEPTYCKI, observer at the Institute of International Relations, Warsaw University. “For any country the situation becomes controversial, if many of its citizens hold another country’s passports. However, dual citizenship need not be only a problem for such a country, it may also have positive implications for the people. They may work in both countries and thus promote the connections between them. I believe this law is more important for Ukrainians than for Poles.”

With the declaration of Russian as a regional minority language in one half of the country, and a possibility of switching to Polish citizenship in the other, isn’t it somehow hard to come up with an example of positive implications?

By Ihor SAMOKYSH, The Day