More proposals for changes to the Bulgarian Citizenship Law in 2023?
We recently wrote about the proposed changes by Kostadin Kostadinov and other MPs to the Bulgarian Citizenship Law (BCL). Today we will analyze the other proposed amendments to the BCL, namely the bills of:
- Nikolay Algafari and other MPs, number 49-354-01-58 / 31.05.2023, and;
- Radomir Cholakov and other MPs, number 49-354-01-64 / 09.06.2023.
The proposed changes are not as many as those of Kostadin Kostadinov and other MPs, however they also deserve careful analysis.
No renunciation of previous citizenship will be required if such renunciation is “impossible”
The legislator proposes to introduce the following text in the additional provisions of the BCL:
The person has renounced his or her former citizenship when he or she has applied, but is unable to renounce his or her former citizenship for reasons beyond his or her control.Proposal to amend §2, point 3 of the Additional Provisions (underlined text)
In other words, the proposal is not to require renunciation of their previous citizenship for the applicants who cannot renounce their previous citizenship for reasons beyond their control. We see a number of problems with this proposal. The reasoning of the authors is the following:
The current changes are to correct injustice and discriminatory treatment of foreign residents living in Bulgaria.
Applying for citizenship requires a criminal record from their country of citizenship, and they have not left our country for decades.
There are countries in which the will of their citizen is not sufficient for renunciation and it is impossible to acquire such, which is a condition for acquiring Bulgarian (citizenship).
There are cases in which children with the same parents, but born one child in Bulgaria and the other in another country, one get citizenship and the other not.
Families cannot travel outside our country in full because someone in the family cannot renounce their first citizenship.the reasons of the authors of the bill
The problems that the adoption of such a proposal would create
“Reasons beyond his control”
First of all, any legislative text must be such, so it can be correctly and accurately applied in Bulgaria. Neither the Bulgarian administration nor the Bulgarian courts are familiar with the legislation of some 200 countries around the world. Each of these countries has its own particular rules concerning the procedures for renouncing citizenship. It would not be possible, even with the best of will, to assess whether an applicant for Bulgarian citizenship cannot actually renounce his previous citizenship for reasons beyond his control. If, for example, the absence of public debts is required for release from citizenship, is the foreigner’s inability to pay his debts to his country of origin, a reason beyond his control?
What if, say, a Russian citizen, in order to renounce his citizenship, has to do military service on the battlefront in Ukraine, and he doesn’t want to kill people or be killed himself. How would that be interpreted? As reasons within or beyond his control?
If the proposed text is adopted, it will mean that citizens of countries where citizenship exemption is possible will be discriminated against. And those who live in countries with more “strict” legislation will be privileged. The former will have to give up their previous passports, the latter will not.
Inadequacy of the motives of the bill’s authors
The motives of the bill’s authors are, in our opinion, not only legally unfounded, but they lack even pure logic and common sense.
First of all, the MPs write, foreigners who have lived in Bulgaria for a long time could not obtain a criminal record from their country of origin. Yes, this is true. But what does this obstacle have to do with (not) releasing them from their former citizenship? These foreigners, even if they were released from their obligation to renounce their citizenship, would again have to produce a criminal record from their country of origin. Moreover, unlike now, they will continue to be citizens of that country. So what does a criminal record have to do with anything? Unfortunately, in our opinion, there is a lack of knowledge of the legislation with regard to Bulgarian citizenship, which is, for us, quite disturbing.
Unilateral renunciation of citizenship
Then, the bill’s drafters argued, that there were countries where a mere will was not enough to release one from citizenship. Of course there are such states, and we dare say that they represent the vast majority. It is enough to see what the procedures are in Bulgaria for renouncing citizenship to understand that renouncing citizenship can hardly be a formal unilateral act. This is what the Constitutional Court told us too after a Canadian citizen felt that he was no longer a Canadian citizen after expressing his will to renounce his Canadian citizenship.
Then the authors of the bill put our intellect to the test by writing that there have been cases of children, one of whom was born in Bulgaria and the other abroad. Thus, one of them received Bulgarian citizenship and the other did not. What does this have to do with the proposed changes to the law? We are still wondering, but if one day we find out, we promise to write a separate article on the subject.
Finally, to reinforce the sense of “lostness”, the bill’s drafters reasoned that families could not travel abroad because someone could not renounce their citizenship. We assume we know what the lawmakers meant, but out of respect for our readers, we’ll spare them the analysis of this paragraph.
Decrees of the President become public
The next proposed changes relate to making the Presidential Decrees public. It is proposed that the Decree will enter into force not after the President’s approval, but on the day of its publication in the State Gazette (Art. 36 of the BCL). Article 38 proposes that the registers referred to in items 2, 3 and 4 be made public.
The explanatory memorandum to the bill states that:
The authors are of the opinion that the act of acquiring Bulgarian citizenship is extremely significant both for the person concerned and for the whole society. On the one hand, the public must be informed that a new member is joining the society, and this fact must be communicated in the proper manner, namely by the promulgation in the State Gazette of the decrees issued by the President of the Republic and, of course, of the decrees restoring or withdrawing citizenship.from the motives to the bill
We consider these proposed changes to be entirely appropriate. Bulgarian citizenship should not be a secret to the public. At present, Bulgarians (incorrectly) believe that Bulgarian citizenship is given to anyone who has asked for it and “paid for it”. This is not only untrue, but also creates a perverse effect whereby state authorities are afraid to approve citizenship applications for fear of being accused of wrongdoing under pressure of public opinion. A publicity of presidential decrees will hopefully dispel doubts in society. And it will ease the procedures for many candidates who are genuinely eligible for Bulgarian citizenship.
The act of naturalization (acquisition of Bulgarian citizenship) will be awarded at a festive ceremony.
The bill’s authors propose making the naturalization process ceremonial. We fully support this idea. The ceremonial nature of the procedure for acquiring citizenship has long been provided for in the legislation of many countries, such as the United States and others. The Bill proposes the creation of a new paragraph 3 to Article 37:
The certificates referred to in par. 1 shall be presented to the persons in a festive atmosphere at the Ministry of Justice or at the Bulgarian diplomatic and consular missions.Proposal for Article 37, para 3 of the BCL
We are only worried about the feasibility of this good idea. At the moment, as many of our readers and clients know, even booking an interview for Bulgarian citizenship is… problematic. If the administration has to make the additional commitment of organizing a ceremony, won’t that distract them from their other, far more important duties.
For questions on the proposed changes
Our opinion on the proposed changes is subjective. If you have any questions, please contact us.