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President: It was me who ordered dual-citizenship rethink

The Interior Ministry announced on Thursday it will begin exploring the possibility of tightening citizenship eligibility criteria or outlawing dual nationality altogether, following a surge in the number of Russians being granted Finnish citizenship.

Sauli Niinistö.
President Niinistö is said to be concerned about potential problems arising from the sharp rise in successful citizenship applications. Image: Yle

President Niinistö has claimed responsibility for commissioning the Interior Ministry to conduct an “information-gathering exercise” over the possibilities of tightening Finland’s citizenship criteria, or ending the practice altogether.

On Thursday Päivi Räsänen, the interior minister, told Yle that her officials are investigating whether the government should introduce new restrictions on who is allowed to acquire Finnish citizenship. The move is understood to be linked to a sharp rise in the number of Russians granted citizenship in Finland in recent years.

”I want to map out what the situation is and what the practical implications would be if this legislation was overturned,” Räsänen said.

However following Räsänen’s announcement, President Niinistö came forward to say that he in fact made the initial call to re-examine the system of citizenship. It is believed that possible problems regarding dual citizenship were flagged up by the cabinet’s Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, with which Niinistö chairs regular joint meetings.

“I have asked for an investigation into the awarding of dual citizenship, and a comparison with other countries. This does not mean that I am immediately looking to begin a debate over this issue,” Niinistö said.

The government has also been following developments within Russia regarding the monitoring of citizens with dual nationality. New rules introduced by the Kremlin make it obligatory for Russians holding dual citizenship to register with the immigration authorities. Failure to do so could result in a hefty fine or community service.

In addition, Russia has announced closer monitoring of its citizens' interests beyond its national borders. This move is understood to have caused concern among foreign policy officials in Finland.

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