May 1995 - June 1996
the V Ministerial Session
Kalmar 2-3 July 1996
The Commissioner of the Council of the Baltic Sea States
on Democratic Institutions and Human Rights,
including the Rights of Persons belonging to Minorities
2.4 CRITERIA AND PROCEDURES FOR OBTAINING CITIZENSHIP
This study focused on criteria for obtaining citizenship; application and decision procedures; possibilities of appeal; information to the public concerning criteria and procedures. The study was sent to the Chairman of the Council in April 1996.
The situation with regard to the requirements for obtaining citizenship is an issue on which the Council of Europe places great emphasis when assessing whether applicant countries fulfill the conditions for full membership of the organisation. The subject is obviously of great significance to all member states.
The issue of citizenship has preoccupied the international community for a very long time. Very few other issues have been the object of international efforts to a similar extent. These efforts have led to some results, but not on a very impressive scale or of a particularly impressive nature. Consequently new initiatives are taken and continuous efforts are made within the UN as well as within the Council of Europe. The explanations are probably manifold, and I will touch upon a few of them.
The very definition of a state comprises two notions: territory and people. For many decades the concept of people has been synonymous with citizens and consequently considered a core-item in relation to the sovereignty of a nation. Outside influence has been rejected and seen as interference with internal affairs.
Since ancient times, foreigners have to a certain extent - and sometimes with good reason - been considered as hostile or even as potential enemies. To include them in the citizenry was therefore seen as a somewhat hazardous step.
Small nations which have experienced domination by larger neighbours may for understandable reasons have been especially keen on reserving for themselves the full and discretionary power with regard to making decisions on citizenship issues.
On the other hand, it could be stated that those in need of citizenship were usually a weak and heterogeneous group of people. Weak because they had no voting rights and therefore did not count as potential electors. Heterogeneous due to their different backgrounds, cultures and countries of origin.
However understandable many of these arguments and reasons may have been in the past, they do not reflect the reality of today, and they seem to have lost much of their validity.
The concept of "internal affairs" has undergone certain changes during the last decades in the sense that the definition of what is considered to fall within the scope of this concept has become more narrow. This is primarily due to the strengthening of human rights in general and to the fact that it is now generally acknowledged that certain human rights issues may have far-reaching implications which make them the legitimate concern of other states.
Experience does not show that foreigners, who reside permanently in a country, represent or might represent a bigger threat by being integrated by naturalisation than by remaining foreigners without any rights to participate in the political life and being insecure as to their future.
To my knowledge, there is no evidence that any country has been able to consolidate its existence in the sense of strengthening national security, culture or economy by being reluctant to give citizenship to persons with strong factual attachment to the country in question - probably quite the reverse.
While special provisions on national security may be contained in legislation on naturalization, this is not possible with regard to regulations on acquisition of citizenship by birth (by far the most predominant element giving immediate right to citizenship).
These are the main reflections underlying my conclusions and recommendations which are the following.
Criteria for obtaining citizenship by naturalization
The main criteria for obtaining citizenship is residence during a specified period in the country in question combined with certain other conditions.
All member states have provided for the possibility of aliens to acquire their citizenship after a certain period of residence. With the exceptions of Lithuania and Germany the formally required residence period is 7 years or less.
Furthermore, it appears that (with the exception of Norway) it is a common condition that the residence period as a rule is calculated from the date when the applicant receives a permanent residence permit. The wording of this condition differs from country to country, and the provisions governing the requirements are not very transparent. In general it can sometimes be very difficult for an alien to calculate how many years he or she must reside in a country before being able to apply for naturalization.
In the Council of Europe, some efforts have been made to standardize the legal concept "residence" (and "domicile"), cf. Resolution (72)1 on the Standardisation of fee Legal Concepts of "Domicile" and of "Residence", adopted in 1972 by the Committee of Ministers. It is recommended that member states should be guided by certain rules. It is e.g. stated that "the residence of a person is determined solely by factual criteria, it does not depend on the legal entitlement to reside.... In determining whether the residence is habitual, account is to be taken of the duration and the continuity of the residence as well as of other facts of a personal or professional nature which point to durable ties between a person and his residence".
In my opinion, it is of great importance that the requirements concerning the acquisition of citizenship are drafted in such a transparent and precise way that people have a possibility to know and understand their legal position (cf. also below). Several member states, however, have stipulated the conditions for residence permits and citizenship in different acts and in a language which can be difficult to interpret, even for lawyers. It is thus very difficult to get an overview of the requirements.
In Denmark, e.g., some groups of aliens have to stay for a longer period in the country than others before being able to apply for citizenship (depending on the particular provision according to which the initial residence permit was obtained). In Finland it is indicated that a stay on the basis of a temporary residence permit, for instance for the purpose of studying, is not counted in the required residence period. In Germany the period an alien has lived in an aliens community hostels, for instance, does not, as a rule, count as residence for the purpose of applying for citizenship. In Latvia persons coming to Latvia after I July 1992 must have been permanent residents for a period of 5 years before being able to apply for citizenship, but for people who do not have family relations in Latvia, a fortune or particular professional qualifications it seems to be impossible or very difficult to acquire such a permanent residence permit.
I recommended that the requirements regarding the residence period are stipulated in a precise way in an act governing the conditions for acquiring citizenship.
Further, I recommended that the required period of residence does not exceed 7 years, and that the period is based upon factual criteria (as is the case in Norway, where a permanent residence permit is a condition for citizenship, but where the required residence period is counted from the moment the applicant is registered as resident for the first time).
I also recommended that persons with a special connection to the country or its citizens are treated under more favourable conditions, cf. Article 7 (4) of the European Draft Convention on Nationality.
In some cases, the period of processing applications is very lengthy. In Denmark, e.g., all applicants are informed by the Ministry of Justice, that due to many applications their case will not be dealt with during the next 1« - 2 years. This is surprising, especially when taking into account that in the majority of cases the processing of the application has been more or less completed by the police, when it reaches the Ministry. It erodes the formal requirements and is not reasonable. I therefore recommended that such practices be changed, and that measures are taken to ensure a more speedy processing of the applications.
Requirements on conduct, financial situation etc.
In most countries it is normally a condition for naturalisation that an applicant has not been convicted of an offence against national security or of other serious offences.
Other requirements on conduct are also found in member states' legislation. Examples of such other requirements are "observing the constitutional system and the laws", "not acting against the state and its security", "identification with and support of the principles of freedom and democracy", "not believing in or having propagated totalitarian ideologies", etc.
Latvia has introduced a system according to which acts preventing a person from acquiring citizenship (for instance, anti-constitutional acts) can only form the basis for refusal of citizenship if such acts have been established by a court.
With a view to consolidating the principles of the rule of law and in order to prevent arbitrariness, I recommended that all member states take measures to ensure that the question of whether an applicant has acted in a way which prevents him or her from obtaining citizenship is determined by a court or another independent body.
In relation to the importance of the degree of severity of the punishment, naturalisation is in most countries denied or postponed only with regard to situations where the applicant has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment. Reference is occasionally made to "major penalties", but the legislation often does not specify this concept any further. According to the information which was available to me, Denmark is the only CBSS country where, as a general rule, even a single fine over 1000 DKK (approximately 250 DM) is considered to constitute sufficient basis for the postponement of conferment of citizenship. Furthermore, the Parliamentary Naturalisation Committee (ultimately the Parliament and the Government) differentiates between various types of offences in the sense that traffic violations' are considered less serious than other offences, regardless of the fact that the size of the fines is the same. Until recently, distinction was even made between different types of traffic violations: speeding tickets never, regardless of the size of the fine, entailed postponement of conferment of citizenship.
Regulations of this nature which may be altered from day to day behind closed doors without any preceding public debate and without the issue of official notices are unfortunate from the point of view of the rule of law and the generally acknowledged standard that people should know their legal situation to the fullest extent possible is not met. It creates the impression that political sentiments of antipathy against or endorsement of certain norms affect the actual legal status of the applicants for naturalisation.
The practice of the various CBSS member states within this field prompted me to make the following recommendations:
To the extent that punishment should be an element preventing or postponing the conferment of citizenship, the severity of the punishment as determined by the courts or by other competent authorities should be the decisive factor and not the nature of the offence itself.
Countries, in which fines lead to preventing or postponing conferment of citizenship, should consider whether this is reasonable, especially when taking into account that the applicant has typically resided in the country for many years and that such consequences may often have serious effects.
Regarding the financial situation of an applicant it is a common requirement that he or she has a legal source of income. In some cases (e. g. in Denmark- Norway and Sweden) debt to public authorities may preclude naturalisation.
I recommended for deliberation whether it is really necessary to maintain that debt to public authorities may preclude naturalisation. In this connection I attach importance to the fact that the applicant is subject to the same rules on recovery of debts whether he or she is naturalised or not, and the applicant will in most cases remain in the country anyway.
As far as I am informed Norway, Poland, Russia and Sweden have no requirements on language proficiency. In Denmark and Finland the applicant must be able to cope with everyday language situations, but there are no requirements on reading and writing proficiency similar to those in Estonia and Latvia and to some extent in Germany and Lithuania.
In so far as language requirements involve reading and writing proficiency, I find it very important that such requirements are limited to a relatively modest level, and especially that the particular situation of the applicant is taken into consideration, allowance should be made for elderly people and for those with learning disabilities.
Estonia, Germany and Latvia have made special provisions for such situations in their legislation or administrative rules.
I recommended that requirements on reading and writing proficiency in general be limited to a relatively modest level and that exceptions or special lenient provisions are always made for certain groups of persons, such as elderly and people with learning disabilities. I would find it appropriate if such exemptions or provisions on leniency could be enlarged to include other persons to whom similar considerations might apply.
Furthermore I would find it appropriate, if language tests in general were conducted by an expert body, a language board or the like - also in countries where the language requirements are limited to language proficiency at conversation level only. In the very least, an official possibility of appeal to such an expert body should be introduced.
Finally, adequate possibilities of language training is naturally of paramount importance in this connection.
In some countries, such as Estonia and Latvia, passing a "legal exam" in addition to the language exam is a requirement. The applicants' knowledge of the countries' constitutions etc. is assessed through an examination held in the country's language.
In my opinion, there should also be a possibility of exempting elderly and people with learning difficulties from these tests. It does not seem consistent that certain groups of persons are exempt from (part of) the language test, while no exceptions are foreseen for the same groups wife regard to the legal test.
I recommended that Estonia exempts the same groups of persons, who are exempted from the language test, from the legal test (such as Latvia has done).
In my opinion, the question should be raised whether it is at all reasonable to condition the acquisition of citizenship on passing a legal exam.
Citizenship by birth
In all member states, the legislation on citizenship is primarily based on jus sanguinis: descent from a citizen. But - inter alia, in order to avoid statelessness - all member states in certain situations also apply the principle of jus soli: birth within state territory. A foundling is thus considered to be a citizen of the state on whose territory he or she is found, unless another status can be determined.
Not all member states have, however, provided for the acquisition of their citizenship by children born of stateless parents within their territory. According to the principle of jus sanguinis such children will become stateless. According to the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, a contracting state shall grant its citizenship to persons born in its territory, who would otherwise be stateless, and the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child impose an obligation on state parties to ensure that every child born on their territory acquires a citizenship.
According to the legislation of Finland, Lithuania, Poland and Russia a child, born on their territory, acquires their citizenship at birth, if the child does not acquire the citizenship of another state.
But the question can be raised whether the legislation in Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Latvia, Norway and Sweden ensures, that children born within their territory of stateless parents acquire the citizenship of these countries at birth.
Denmark, Norway and Sweden have legislation which provide for the acquisition of their citizenship by young (e.g. stateless) people, who have reached the age of 18 years and who have habitually resided in their territory for a period of 5 years immediately preceding the lodging of the application and for a period of 10 years in all. Germany has also facilitated the possibility for young aliens, who have resided in the country for at least 8 years, to acquire German citizenship (on application). I am not informed about similar rules in Estonia and Latvia.
Furthermore, Denmark in a circular states that children, who are born in Denmark of stateless parents and who live in Denmark, can be naturalized individually and without fulfilling the normal conditions for naturalization. I have not come across similar rules in the other countries and have not been informed of which practice might be followed in order to comply with the obligations in, inter alia, the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Latvia has, however, included a provision in its Law on Citizenship, Article 28, which states that "If an international agreement ratified by the Saeima provides for regulations other than those contained in this Law, the regulations of the international agreement shall be applied". Depending on the implementation of the conventions, this article may entail compatibility with the international obligations, cf. below.
The legislation in Denmark, Germany, Norway and Sweden may be compatible with the requirements in the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness (in so far as a stateless applicant fulfilling the mentioned conditions is guaranteed the right to a citizenship (at the age of 18)). (Estonia has not ratified the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.)
The question is, however, whether the legislation and the practice of these states comply with the obligations according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which all states have ratified. These instruments pertain to the right of the "child" to acquire a citizenship (while the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness regards the right of a "person" born on a state's territory). Even if it is assumed that the instruments do not directly link the right to a citizenship to "the fact of birth ", an interpretation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child suggests that the aim is to ensure the rights of the child from its birth. This also complies with the wording of the two instruments concerning the child's right to acquire a citizenship, and with the declarations which explicitly provide for the right to a citizenship "from birth" and "at all times".
To the extent that the practice in the states makes the child's right to acquire a citizenship dependent on an application from the parents or a guardian, it is in my opinion questionable whether such an arrangement is sufficient to comply with the state's obligation to "ensure the implementation of these (the child's) rights...... in particular where the child would otherwise be stateless", cf. Article 7 (2) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In a Report from the United Nations General Assembly, A/48/511, "Situation of Human Rights in Estonia and Latvia" - report of the Secretary-General, based on a Fact Finding Mission to Estonia, it is also stated, that children born in Estonia after 21 January 1992 (the date of the entry into force for Estonia of the International Covenant on Civil and political Rights) are entitled, by virtue of Article 24, paragraph 3 of the Covenant, to acquire Estonian citizenship, if they would otherwise be stateless.
I recommended that all member states consider how to ensure the implementation of the right for every child to acquire a citizenship at birth. In my opinion the state where the child is born is obliged to grant its citizenship to the child, if the child does not obtain the citizenship of another state.
The negative attitude of governments towards accepting double citizenship has created various problems. Due to these problems, there are indications that this attitude is gradually changing. In the Draft Convention on Nationality the Council of Europe has tried to find appropriate solutions in order to deal with the consequences of double citizenship.
On this background it is emphasized in the Draft that state parties are free
to choose to allow their citizens to posses more than one citizenship.
It is, however, according to the Draft in certain cases an obligation for state parties to accept double citizenship.
This is the case, where double citizenship is acquired automatically by birth or marriage. The citizenship legislation in all member states seem to be in compliance with this.
But double citizenship should be accepted also in cases where the renunciation of a previous citizenship, as a condition for the granting of a new citizenship, is impossible or cannot reasonably be required.
I therefore recommended that the principle of accepting double citizenship in cases, where renunciation is impossible or cannot reasonably be required, is implemented by all member states (subject to other international obligations).
In my opinion there are other valid reasons for a more positive approach to double citizenship.
Many immigrants may resent loosing their citizenship of origin because it may influence important legal rights, e. g. the right of inheritance, or due to emotional or other reasons. If double citizenship is not accepted, they may in practice be prevented from obtaining the citizenship of the state where they have settled and from being fully integrated there.
Considering that problems connected with double citizenship can be solved, either by special agreements between states or according to guidelines, as provided for in the Draft Convention on Nationality, I recommended that member states adopt a more flexible and positive approach and consider accepting double citizenship in cases where an applicant's desire to maintain a original citizenship is reasonably justified.
The question of double citizenship should in my opinion also be seen in connection with the right to change one's citizenship, which (under certain conditions) exist according to international law. Article 15 of the Universal Declaration on Human rights states feat no one shall be (arbitrarily) domed fee right to change his nationality. The right to change citizenship is also provided for in the Convention on Reduction of Multiple Nationality and Military Obligations in Cases of Multiple Nationality (1963).
Consequently, a state should not refuse to release an applicant from its citizenship, if certain conditions are fulfilled. (The acquisition of a new citizenship must be in consistence with international law and be sought in good faith by a person who has his or her ordinary residence abroad.) If the conditions are fulfilled, a refusal from a state to let a citizen renounce his or her citizenship should not prevent the person in question from being granted a new citizenship.
Application and decision procedures
Decisions on naturalization are essential to the individual. In light of this and due to the fact that such decisions are discretionary to a certain extent, the existence of legislative or administrative rules and procedures providing the applicants with certain rights is very important.
I recommended that member states be guided in their practice by the
rules provided in Council of Europe's (the Committee of Ministers) Resolution
(77) 31 on Protection of the Individual in relation to Acts of Administrative
Authorities and Recommendation No R (80) 2 concerning the Exercise of
Discretionary Powers by Administrative Authorities. For the applicant this
implies a right:
- to be consulted
- to receive information upon request
- to assistance and representation to information in writing on the reasons on which a negative decision is based
- to indication of remedies (possibilities of appeal)
- to have decisions taken within a reasonable time.
It should be obvious that the demands made by the legislature regarding the administrative procedures of a country in general also apply to cases regarding naturalisation. The fact that the applicants are foreigners should not lead to a lower legal status.
The conferment or denial of citizenship is a concrete legal act, and it is in many ways unique that according to the Danish system it is the Parliament which in statutory form has the responsibility for such concrete legal acts.
Admittedly it is difficult to change the system because it would involve amending the Constitution, and this is a complex procedure. On the other hand, this special system need not prevent the Danish legislature from establishing the criteria and procedures for the acquisition of citizenship in a statutory form. In this connection the normal characteristics of good and fair administrative procedures must naturally be observed. Ensuring that arbitrariness does not occur should be a leading principle.
Initiatives of this nature would also mean that the Parliament could see to it that decisions are made within a reasonable period of time. This is a normal responsibility of the Parliament in many other fields. I recommended that Denmark takes steps to follow these general principles also within the special field of naturalisation. A similar recommendation is made to other member states where the above-mentioned resolution and recommendation from the Council of Europe have not yet been fully implemented.
Possibilities of appeal
It is generally accepted that there is a need for administrative and judicial control with decisions made by state authorities. In my opinion, this applies particularly to cases concerning the right to a citizenship which is of essential importance for the individual (as "the right to have rights").
It should be taken into account that such decisions are based on several partial decisions of a preconditional nature, e. g. on the applicant's attachment to a state, his or her conduct, language proficiency etc., each of which may involve exercise of discretion.
According to article 14 of the Draft European Convention on Nationality, "Each State Party shall ensure that decisions relating to nationality be open to an administrative or judicial review in conformity with the internal law of the State Party concerned".
I recommended that negative decisions on citizenship are made subject to administrative and/or judicial control. If it is not possible, for the time being, to provide for the possibility of appeal of a refusal to grant citizenship - due to the constitutional system of a state - I recommend that decisions on the underlying conditions (affiliation, conduct, language proficiency etc.) can be appealed to an independent body.
In Denmark, for instance, decisions on naturalization can not be appealed. The language test conducted by the police may, however, be evaluated by the Ministry of Justice. This possibility is used in practice, but in my opinion there is a need for formalizing such a system so that applicants are always aware of this possibility.
Transparency of the rules on acquisition of citizenship and information to the public
It is a generally accepted principle that it should be possible for all individuals to know their legal situation and the ensuing rights and obligations. The legislation and other administrative acts should consequently be elaborated in a transparent and precise way. Particularly in areas which are of essential importance to the individual, specific information in brochures or fee like should be given - also in foreign languages.
In my opinion, the legislative regulations and procedures according to which citizenship is acquired are often not transparent, and in general there seems to be a certain lack of information about the criteria for naturalization. I fail to understand why applicants should not be forewarned that a certain conduct - for instance reckless driving - may have serious consequences in relation to their possibilities for acquiring citizenship.
As mentioned, most countries require a certain residence period, calculated from the day the applicant has received a permanent residence permit. This is, however, not always mentioned in the citizenship laws and the regulations on how to obtain such a permanent residence permit are normally found in another law (often the aliens law). Further requirements are often mentioned in circulars and guidelines.
In Denmark this circular furthermore is confidential. In my opinion it is questionable whether the confidentiality of this circular is in accordance with the Danish Act on Access to Public Administration Files (Act No. 572, 19 December 1985).
All this creates a very unclear picture of the rules, and in most countries this problem has not been redressed by information material.
It is important that the potential applicants know the criteria for obtaining citizenship, both in order to be able to prepare themselves and not to forfeit their chances. Information may also be seen as a motivating factor.
In so far as the countries have specific time limits, within which the applicants have a privileged legal position, it is detrimental to the persons in question, if they are not sufficiently informed about such rules. (In the Nordic countries this is the case for young aliens, under the age of 23, who are able to acquire citizenship on much easier and more informal terms by declaration; it may also be the case for persons under certain transitional arrangements.)
I therefore recommended that member states consider how to draft their laws on citizenship in a more transparent way, and to consider the best way to make them public.
Furthermore I recommended that member states, which have not already done so, publish information on the rules governing the acquisition of citizenship etc., preferably in different foreign languages, as e. g. Norway has done. Cooperation with various immigrants' associations might be very useful in this respect.
The right to a citizenship in states with restored independence
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have faced special problems in the sense that these countries were subjected to an intense "Sovietization" for 50 years. Particularly Estonia and Latvia experienced immigration on a large scale, and a rapid ethnodemographic change created fears of national extinction. Discrimination against Estonians and Latvians in the fields of employment, housing and social benefits resulted in a lower standard of living for natives than for immigrants and reduced the natives to an underprivileged group in their own states.
It is undeniable that states with such a background and a large non-citizen population face special problems. It is understandable that this may induce requirements on a certain level of language proficiency, loyalty, etc. as conditions for the granting of citizenship.
On the other hand, it should also be taken into account that many of the "immigrants" from the former Soviet Union came to these countries in good faith (not as "occupants"), and that a great number of the Russian-speaking citizens of the former Soviet Union living in Estonia and Latvia were born there or have lived there for most of their lives. They may feel more connected to the state where they reside than to any other state. They did not come to the republics as immigrants with a citizenship of a foreign state, but as citizens of the former Soviet Union moving from one part of the Union to another. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union they no longer had any citizenship; they were left "stateless".
Many of these individuals do not feel connected to Russia or any other "third" state, and this indicates reasons for conferment of citizenship on less strict terms than normally required.
According to the conventions on statelessness (which I have recommended to be ratified) and according to the European Draft Convention on Nationality, statelessness should be prevented and citizenship be granted to stateless applicants as quickly as possible. When stateless persons decide to stay in a country, where they have had their permanent residence for a long time, their possibility of acquiring the citizenship of that country should, in my opinion, be provided for within a reasonable time and on reasonable conditions. This is to the advantage of the individuals in question, the country in question and to the advantage of international stability.
In Lithuania the consequence of the pragmatic model chosen was that all permanent residents were either granted citizenship automatically or had the possibility to opt for citizenship.
Almost 5 years have passed, since the independence of Estonia and Latvia was restored. Contrary to the uncertainty which naturally prevailed at the time of the restoration of independence, it is now clear that the majority of the Russian-speaking citizens of the former Soviet Union wish to remain in the country where they or their parents have had their permanent residence for many years.
On this basis, it is difficult to see the advantages derived by a strict legislation and administration regarding naturalisation. Research shows that "mandatory measures" as a pedagogical tool is not conducive to, e. g., the process of learning languages - on the contrary.
In Latvia, fear of a mass influx of applications may have been one of the reasons for introducing the special "window system" or step by step approach. No such mass influx of applications has occurred, however, and concerns are in fact voiced about the relatively low number of applications received. The question is whether it is really necessary to maintain the current system which only allow review of applications for naturalisation from the 16-20 year old born in Latvia in 1996, from persons up to 25 years of age born in Latvia in 1997 and so on.
According to the system, a very large category of people (approximately 210.000) who were born outside the country but who entered it before the age of 30 will not be able to have their applications reviewed before the year 2002. Review of applications from everyone else does not commence until the year 2003. In my opinion this gives rise to concern since every individual should be given the possibility to submit an application and have it reviewed, when he or she fulfills the general conditions.
In my opinion, it may be questioned whether Estonia and Latvia fully meet the relevant international and European standards. Taking fee lapse of time and the various sociological elements with regard to the above-mentioned part of the non- citizen population into account, I recommended for these countries to reconsider the necessity of maintaining the strict requirements for naturalisation which were elaborated shortly after the restoration of independence, in order to reduce the tensions which might otherwise develop. Important factors such as independence, cultural identity and a harmonious co-existence do not seem to be enhanced by the present strictness.
In conclusion I emphasized that the absence of basic political rights for a large group of the population permanently resident in a country is problematic in relation to the common principles of democracy - among these are also the democratic principles which Estonia and Latvia are obliged to adhere to according to the Europe Agreements recently entered into, and which constitute a step on the way towards a future membership of the European Union.
2.5 A SPECIAL STUDY ON GRANTING CITIZENSHIP TO CERTAIN FOREIGN NATIONALS
Apart from the general surveys undertaken on issues related to citizenship, a special research was made on the conditions and criteria in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway and Sweden with regard to granting citizenship to Turkish nationals, who are not able to renounce their Turkish citizenship unless they perform military service or pay a large sum of money (10.000 DM or more). This issue is of a considerable importance to many West European countries due to the active role played by Turkish nationals in many aspects of social life of these countries and because of differences in national legislations of some states which can lead to discrimination and unfair treatment of members of the Turkish minority.
My main conclusion was that the current situation in Denmark was particularly hard for many Turkish citizens who were in practice prevented from acquiring the citizenship of a country where they have settled and wish to be integrated. I recommended that the Government and the Parliament of Denmark follow the practice of other CBSS countries. I further expressed the hope that all CBSS members will do their utmost to convince the Turkish government to change the internal legislation of Turkey in a way that could alleviate the prevailing situation.
The findings and recommendations were sent to the countries in question in October 1995.