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Will Dual Citizenship Unite Armenians?

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 PostPosted: Tue Nov 22, 2005 11:10 am    Post subject: Will Dual Citizenship Unite Armenians? Reply with quote Back to top

Will Dual Citizenship Unite Armenians?
By Victoria Abrahamyan

November 21, 2005

"A citizen of the Republic of Armenia cannot simultaneously be a
citizen of another country." This is the second part of Article
14 of the current Constitution, which categorically denies dual
citizenship. Dual citizenship has constantly been on the political
agenda of independent Armenia. Numerous arguments have been brought
both for and against the idea. The arguments in support include a huge
Diaspora, allowing a larger percentage of Armenians to participate
in the political, economic, and cultural life of Armenia, increasing
investments in the country, and so on. Those opposed to the idea
cite the dangers of allowing other countries and their citizens to
interfere in the political life of Armenia, and to influence the
domestic and foreign policy of our country. Supporters and opponents
have not come to an agreement over the proposed amendments to the
Constitution. Although the article denying dual citizenship has been
removed, the Constitution itself says nothing about the rights and
duties of dual citizens. The only mention in the proposed package of
dual citizenship is in the fourth part of article 30.1, which states,
"The rights and duties of individuals with dual citizenship are to
be outlined by law."

This position completely satisfies the Armenian Revolutionary
Federation (ARF-Dashnaktsutsyun). Members of the ARF claim that it
was with great difficulty that they managed to convince the ruling
coalition to remove the article prohibiting dual citizenship. The
ARF is already working on the law regarding dual citizenship. "The
law regarding dual citizenship is 80-90% ready," said ARF Supreme
Council member Armen Rustamyan. Rustamyan did not deny that accepting
dual citizenship would cause various problems; "It just means that we
have to work, we have to think hard about using dual citizenship to
increase the size of our labor force. There are just 9 million of us in
the world; we cannot afford any luxuries. A country's power depends on
its labor force." In Rustamyan's view, dual citizenship is a privilege,
which each individual must earn. "For someone to get dual citizenship,
they must first prove their dedication to the country," he said.

ARF member Levon Mkrtchyan believes that in failing to establish the
principle of dual citizenship in the 1995 Constitution, Armenia lost
an opportunity to build up a pan-Armenian potential. "If someone has
a history of residence, pays taxes, has paid his debts to his country
and has served in the army, why shouldn't he be allowed to elect and
be elected?" he asked.

Although he supports dual citizenship, Mkrtchyan believes it should
be disallowed for holders of office such as the president, speaker
of parliament, as well as for ministers and other senior officials.

Galust Sahakyan, a member of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA)
and leader of their parliamentary faction sees dual citizenship as
having symbolic significance: "Removing obstacles to dual citizenship
in these amendments was a result of political compromise. After a
great deal of though and discussion, the coalition accepted the ARF's
proposal. Dual citizenship is more linked to our national issues,
and not to legal norms.

If a US citizen receives Armenian citizenship, the US would not
allow them to participate in elections in Armenia or to serve in the
Armenian army." In Sahakyan's view, the experience of other countries
has proven that dual citizenship does not work. He does not agree with
the idea that giving dual citizens the right to vote can cause other
countries to influence the election of the president of Armenia. "That
is a misinformed political opinion and smacks of tautology. The real
matter is economic process."

According to economist Tatul Manaseryan constitutional reform is
unacceptable in the current conditions. As for dual citizenship, its
influence on the economic development of the country will not be felt.

"Because the commercial atmosphere in the country is still not healthy,
dual citizenship cannot lead to increased investments or a rise in
paid taxes.

Those Diasporan Armenians who are doing business in Armenia today do
not expect that dual citizenship will be permitted. The development
of an atmosphere of trust and the creation of equal conditions for
local Armenians and those abroad are what will lead to real economic

Manaseryan believes that dual citizenship is more of a need for those
Armenians who emigrated from the country in recent years but do not
want to break their ties with Armenia. "The government today needs
to first protect the interests of the citizens of Armenia. Only
then can it start to consider protecting the interests of foreign
citizens." Moreover, Manaseryan sees a serious danger in the acceptance
of the idea of dual citizenship. "Not everyone has good intentions
in seeking Armenian citizenship. One should seriously consider an
individual's mental capabilities, intentions, and willingness to serve
Armenia. One can't rule out that secret agents of Armenian ethnicity
might want to take advantage of this opportunity."

While other political powers accept the idea of dual citizenship,
albeit with certain reservations, the Armenian National Movement
(ANM) is categorically against it. ANM member Davit Shahnazaryan
said that if dual citizenship is accepted, then the biggest threat
to Armenia will be from Russia. "Dual citizenship is accepted in all
the European countries, and is outlined by bilateral international
agreements. Armenia and Russia will be quick to sign a similar
agreement, because it is primarily in Russia's interests to do so. As a
result, the 2.5 million Armenians there today will do Russia's bidding
when it comes to participation in elections. We all know how elections
are organized in Russia. They don't have free and fair elections
there. In essence, our state will cease to exist independently,"
Shahnazaryan said.

Constitutional scholar Vardan Poghosyan cited international precedents
noting, "International studies show that a majority of countries
have a negative attitude towards dual citizenship. This is because
of complications that arise for people with dual citizenship. Dual
citizens are simultaneously dependent on two different countries and
may end up with contradictory responsibilities - military service,
paying taxes, holding elected office, and so on."

None of the rights of dual citizens are outlined in the proposed
constitution - these will be determined by a corresponding law. The
proposed changes make no mention of dual citizens' political rights,
either. Vardan Poghosyan could not rule out the hypothetical
possibility that in the near future dual citizens would outnumber
those who are citizens of Armenia alone, and, having the right to
vote and hold office, albeit having never lived in Armenia in their
lives, they could play a critical role in determining the results of
elections in the country.

In order to avoid any negative backlash from accepting dual
citizenship, the constitutional scholar believes that it is necessary
to have the following provision in the new constitution - "Individuals
who hold citizenship of another country besides that of Armenia will
not be allowed to hold the office of president, member of parliament,
or other state positions.

Individuals who hold the citizenship of another country besides that of
Armenia will be allowed to vote only in the case of permanent residence
in Armenia for a certain period of time before the elections."
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