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President Niinistö urges re-evaluation of dual citizenship laws

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö says that Finland should look again at dual citizenship laws, as the situation has changed since they were framed in 2003. He said he was particularly concerned that other countries, including Russia, do not recognise dual citizenship.

Sauli Niinistö.
President Sauli Niinistö Image: Martti Kainulainen / Lehtikuva

President Sauli Niinistö said on Thursday that Finland's laws on dual citizenship might need to be looked at again, as the situation has changed since the laws allowing dual citizenship were drafted in 2003. The goal of that legislation was to ease the re-integration of Finns returning from Sweden, and to help attract top class talent to live and work in Finland--but now things have changed.

"The rationale for the law has, if not disappeared completely, then at least worked quite poorly," said Niinistö after he made a speech at the state opening of parliament. "Conditions are completely different when we see what has happened. I think this is the main thing that I'd hope we could at least discuss."

Niinistö cited the practices of other states around dual citizenship, saying that Russia for example does not grant dual citizenship except in exceptional circumstances, and Germany does apply certain restrictions to those seeking dual nationality if their other citizenship is from certain countries.

Recruitment issues

The other current issue, after this week's revelations about restrictions on recruitment of dual Finnish-Russian nationals, is how Finnish authorities act in recruiting for security-sensitive posts.

"The situation is that, if the country granting the individual's original citizenship does not want to recognise this element or institution of dual citizenship, then they will always regard that person as their citizen, no matter how many additional citizenships they acquire," said Niinistö.

"Prime Minister Medvedev gave an interview last autumn, where he once again emphasised that Russia will protect Russians no matter where they are," said Niinistö. "The Russian thinking is quite consistent. They don't grant dual citizenship and they don't recognise such a thing as applied to Russians, who have obtained another citizenship in addition to their Russian nationality."

Possible problems could arise as a result of the so-called "duty of obedience" in Russian law, under which dual nationals have to report any other citizenships they hold.

No surprises for Russia

"Here Finnish citizens have obligations to the Finnish state," said Niinistö. "If we have citizens who have obligations to others, that's a question to be pondered."

Niinistö did not share Defence Minister Jussi Niinistö's concern that discussion surrounding Yle's reporting on dual citizenship issues this week might affect Finnish-Russian relations.

"I think that they are pretty well aware of it, whether we talk about it or not," said Niinistö. "I think that the average Russian is more likely to wonder now "are there Russians in the Finnish army?"

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