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The problems with dual citizenship in Georgia

By Messenger Staff
Friday, May 31
The Georgian Constitution forbids Georgian citizens holding dual citizenship with the proviso that in certain exceptional cases, the president of Georgia can grant dual citizenship to particular people.

During the Rose Administration, dual citizenship was frequently permitted and President Mikhail Saakashvili used to grant this right to many foreigners or Georgians living abroad. In fact, it became common practice.

Now, it appears as though the Georgian Constitution may allow dual citizenship for people who hold high governmental positions such as president, prime minister and parliamentary chairman.

There is a lot of confusion regarding the citizenship of the current Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili who had for some time triple nationality– French, Russian and Georgian.

As soon as Ivanishvili entered Georgian politics, he gave up his Russian citizenship. However, President Saakashvili deprived him of his Georgian citizenship as well. Afterwards, the most ridiculous part of this whole fiasco was put into effect: a special clause was inserted in the Constitution which allowed EU citizens who had lived in Georgia for over five years to run for the position of prime minister. This was only permitted up to January 1st, 2014. Eventually, Saakashvili returned Georgian citizenship to Ivanishvili but the latter had to give up his French citizenship in return.

There were other controversial cases in Georgia as well. For instance, during the Georgian-Russian War in August, 2008, Georgia’s then Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze had both Russian and Georgian citizenship. Also, Georgia’s Defence Minister Davit Kezerashvili held both Georgian and Israeli citizenship. When the author of the Georgian liberal-economic reforms, Kakha Bendukidze, arrived in Georgia to take up the position of Minister for the Economy, he held both Russian and Georgian citizenship.

Saakashvili tried to attract Georgian emigrants residing in foreign countries by offering them the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of dual citizenship.

Sometimes Georgian citizens who also have foreign citizenship want to stay in Georgia without giving up their dual citizenship. They retain their foreign citizenship to ensure the security of their future career and their retirement pension. There should also be some positions which require the holder to be a Georgian citizen, for instance the president. This is the opinion of Parliamentary Vice Speaker, Manana Kobakidze.

Some analysts suggest that the issue of the citizenship of future presidents has already been discussed in the case of Salome Zourabichvili who has both Georgian and French citizenship and wanted to become the president of Georgia five years ago.

One way or another, Parliamentary Chairman, Davit Usupashvili has promised to create a constitutional commission which will discuss this issue and reach a final decision