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Räsänen explores possibility of scrapping dual citizenship

The interior minister says she has begun an “information-gathering exercise” to look into the implications and legalities of tightening Finland’s criteria for awarding dual nationality, or of abandoning the practice altogether. The move follows a sharp rise in Finnish citizenship awarded to Russian nationals, as well as new Russian laws to monitor dual-nationality citizens more closely.

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An application for a Finnish visa being processed in St Petersburg Image: Yle

Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen may be looking to tighten Finland’s criteria for awarding dual citizenship, or even overturn the practice altogether, Yle understands.

Räsänen announced that her officials at the Interior Ministry 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 numbers of Russians granted citizenship in Finland in recent years.

Yle has been told that possible problems regarding dual citizenship have been flagged up by parliament’s Security and Foreign Affairs Committee, with which President Niinistö chairs regular joint meetings.. Citizenship-related issues, however, fall under the remit of the Interior Ministry.

Räsänen announced on Thursday that she has asked for clarification about the recent rise in citizenship applications, and any possible associated problems.

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

”The questions being looked into are what it would mean in practice, which direction other countries are going in, and what sort of international obligations Finland is bound by. This is simply an information-gathering exercise to ascertain the possibilities,” she said.

Citizenship surge

Latest figures put the number of overseas citizens living in Finland at around 200,000. Around 60,000 have dual citizenship, of whom a third are Russian nationals.

Awards of dual citizenship to Russians have increased markedly in recent years, with 2,103 Russian nationals being granted Finnish citizenship last year. The second largest group was Somali nationals, with 814 successful applications.

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.

Räsänen says that the government has been following these developments in Russia.

”They are not the only basis [for reconsidering Finnish dual citizenship rules], but of course this sort of discussion awakens interest. It’s important to clarify what our own system is and how it works,” Räsänen said.

Finland has allowed citizens to hold dual nationality since 2003.

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