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Jarab Jan, Horak Petr - 4 settembre 1993

Introduction: Radical Party activists in the Czech Republic believe that the current law on Czech citizenship is undemocratic and ought to be changed. If this does not happen, severe complications can result - especially for the Romany (Gypsy) minority (tens of thousands of them could face deportation after January 1, 1994.) We have to act now - before it is too late. The following proposal has been presented to some deputies of the Czech Parliament; it seems, however, that the Parliament is not going to discuss it seriously. The Government proposal for an amendment, which is currently being discussed in Parliament, brings only cosmetic changes and solves none of the crucial problems created by the existing version of the law.

International pressure on the Czech Government and Parliament - especially from the European Parliament - will probably be necessary if our initiative is turned down or "unnoticed". Such pressure should concentrate especially on the issue of the Romany minority, whose rights are obviously violated by this law.


by Jan Jarab and Petr Horak

The law 40/1992 (passed by the Czech National Council on December 29, 1992) has, in our opinion, the following serious shortcomings:

(1) It accepts the definition of the "citizen of the Czech Republic" from the 24-year-old Federal law 165/1968, which was further developed by the Czech National Council in the law 39/1969; both of these laws concern the matter of citizenship of the republics. By accepting this definition, however, the current law reduces the citizen to a passive object of the authorities' decisions; the authorities grant various rights to its citizens at will (or refuse to do so), according to arbitrary criteria such as the citizen's birthplace or the birthplace of his or her parents. According to the aforementioned laws a person is a Czech citizen if he or she was born on the territory of the Czech Republic and was at least 15 years old on January 1, 1969; younger persons, i.e. those born between Jan.1, 1969 and Dec.31, 1992, received the citizenship which was held by their parents - i.e., of the republic in which the parents were born. Due to this definition, the national principle becomes mixed up with the civic p

rinciple, which should be the basis of citizenship. The often-cited argument that "everyone could have changed his citizenship from one republic to another" is hypocritical; these categories had no practical significance and most citizens were not even aware of their existence. Indeed, the citizenship of each republic was legally irrelevant and identical with the term "nationality" to such a degree that it was not even written in any identification cards or other official documents, where only Czechoslovak citizenship and Czech or Slovak nationality were mentioned.

After the last elections, when the political leaderships decided to split the federation, this category suddenly ceased being legally irrelevant and became crucial. Even from a legal viewpoint such a development is rather dubious; while taking over the definition of a "citizen of the Czech Republic" from the law 165/1968, the current law violates the preceding law on which 165/1968 is based, i.e. the Law on the Czechoslovak Federation (143/1968), which states that the citizen of one republic has equal rights on the territory of the other. The Law on the Czechoslovak Federation also states explicitly that the following law - the one which defines the citizenships of the consituent republics - is intended to specify its own statements. If this basic law is being abolished, however, then the employment of the specifying law, which only defines the "citizen of the Czech Republic" as a category, can be viewed as a selective interpretation of law in general.

(2) The Parliament, which was elected under the name of the "Czech National Council", passed into the new state under the name of the "Assembly of Representatives" - without any conditions and limitations. However, hundreds of thousands of its voters, who were registered in their respective towns of residence, voted for the Parliament and gave it a part of its legimitacy, were disenfranchised and deprived of their citizenship through a decision of that same Parliament and have to apply to receive it again. Moreover, the new law on citizenship actually denies many of these voters the chance to receive it at all. The required 5-year period without an intentional criminal offence, for instance, assures that a 30-year-old person of Slovak origin, who was born in Prague and has received a sentence for a criminal act in the last 5 years, is not eligible for citizenship, while a 30-year-old Czech has this citizenship automatically, without any regard to his penal record.

The law has imposed the status of a citizen of the Slovak Republic (a new independent subject of international law) to people who did not have to spend even a minute of their life on Slovak territory. The absurdity of this situation becomes apparent when we realize that many persons who ran for the last elections to the Czech National Council (including at least one elected deputy) suddenly became non-citizens in the Czech Republic, and that the requirements for becoming a Czech citizen in 1993 are stricter than those for being a candidate for the current Czech Parliament.

Only after the creation of the independent Czech Republic did a new independent subject of international law appear on the scene. At the moment of its birth, however, this subject has formulated retroactive requiremtns for its citizenship which include the birth of a person or even of its parents (in all persons younger than 39 years) on a territory which was not yet independent or even formally existent at the moment of that persons birth.

(3) The acceptance of such a definition of a citizen not only violates the civic principle, puts in doubt the legitimity of our Parliament and conflicts with elementary logic due to the retroactivity of its criteria; it also has some very serious practical results. Among other things, it also puts one entire ethnic group at a disadvantage - the Romanies. As the original Romany community in the Czech Lands perished almost entirely in Nazi concentration camps and most Romanies now living here came from Slovakia (a large proportion of them being forcibly moved here by the Communist authorities in the late 1950's), they suddenly became citizens of the independent Slovak Republic after January 1, 1993. Moreover, many of them fail to meet the requirements for Czech citizenship, although they were born in the Czech Lands and grew up here. If the majority of Romanies fail to receive the Czech citizenship, their social status will be subject to further deterioration, because as "foreign nationals" they will be

even less successful than today in finding employment. In other words, another barrier will be created against their successful integration into this society. The "Romany problem" will not vanish when the Romanies fail to receive Czech citizenship; quite the opposite, the resulting situation will be inherently unstable and it will have to be solved either in a democratic way, i.e. by a belated amendment of the law on citizenship, or in a totalitarian manner, i.e. by deportations to Slovakia. The latter would, of course, have grave results not only on the Czech political scene (a rise in nationalism) but also on the international level; in the eyes of democratic Europe, we would rightly sink to the level of the Yugoslav republics. It is also worth mentioning that during the process of the Czech Republic's admission to the Council of Europe some members voiced concern about the discrimination of Romanies in the Czech Republic.


The acceptance of the legal norms of 1969 as a basis for the current citizenship law in the Czech Republic represents a threat to the rule of the civic principle in this country. The most just solution, which would be in accord with the democratic tradition of 1918, would be to give all citizens of the former Czech and Slovak Federal Republic the right to elect whichever citizenship they want.

However, as the results of the vote on the current law from December 1992 indicate, our Parliament seems unwilling to dispose entirely with this heritage of 1969. We propose, therefore, what we believe is a realistic compromise: a law which would give the right of option to all "Slovak citizens" who were permanently resident on the territory of the Czech Republic prior to December 31, 1992. These citizens should become Czech citizens if they declare themselves as such, and they should not have to meet any further requirements.

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