New bill to make dual nationality possible for former Czech citizens

Иллюстративное фото: Архив Чешского радио - Радио Прага

The Interior Ministry has come up with a new bill on citizenship which will make it easier for former Czech nationals to have their Czech citizenship returned. If it goes through, former Czech citizens who were stripped of their citizenship by the communist authorities will be able to have double nationality.

Czechoslovakia saw two major waves of emigration in its post-war history. After the communist putsch of 1948, an estimated 200,000 people left the country; another 150,000 escaped from Czechoslovakia following the Soviet-led invasion of 1968. A great of majority of these people were stripped of their citizenship as a result. They usually received the citizenship of the country where they settled, and were only able to apply for Czech citizenship after the fall of communism in 1989. But there was a catch – with the exception of a short period in the early 1990s, they had to give up their current nationality in order to re-gain their Czech passports.

This could now be about to change. The Czech Interior Ministry has introduced a new bill on state citizenship which will make it possible for these people to keep their current nationality and re-gain their Czech citizenship at the same time. Vladimír Řepka is a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

“The government wants to consider the possibility of making the process of acquiring double-nationality easier. The main aim is to prepare a better position for former citizens of the Czech Republic, as well as their children, who live abroad and were de-nationalized. The Interior Ministry wants to allow former citizens of the Czech Republic to participate in social and political activities here, in their native country.”

Jan Švejnar, photo: CTK
Under the current law, only Czech-born citizens of the United States had such an option. Some prominent Czechs in the U.S., including the tennis star Martina Navrátilová or the presidential candidate Jan Švejnar, have had their Czech passports returned. But former Czech citizens living in other countries could either retain their current citizenship, and be regarded as foreigners in their native country, or become Czech citizens while losing their second nationality. This also applies to political emigrants who were pushed out of Czechoslovakia in the 1970s by the communist secret police for their opposition to the post-invasion policies known as “normalization”.

The Interior Ministry does not have any estimates of how many former Czech citizens might apply for Czech passports once the new law comes into force next year. But the government hopes that the new initiative to alleviate the wrongs of the past will pay off. In the last general election of 2006, it was the votes of Czech nationals living abroad which tipped the scales in favour of the current, centre-right wing administration.