Foreigner Act and the diaspora: Of Croatian blood – of foreigner substance? Mid to late January 2017 saw readings in the Croatian parliament of evidently EU-driven proposals for amendments to the Foreigners Act 2011 of Croatia (including amendments to it prior to 2016). Foreigners Act is of exceptional importance because it contains definitions of foreigners or aliens within Croatia and many other provisions and regulations tied to entering the country, working, living, family reunion, education, and multitude of other aspects relevant to life in general. The parts of this Act that interest people of Croatian descent living in the diaspora, who do not possess for whatever reason citizenship of the Republic of Croatia, are particularly in Article 2 and specifically Clauses 1 and 2 and the wording of the relevant parts of Article 2 of the Act as it fronts up to the parliament for proposed amendments is:
“Article 2 (OLD VERSION TO BE AMENDED translated into English from source Zakon.hr )
For the purposes of this Act, the particular terms have the meanings as follows:
1. Foreigner means a person who is not a Croatian citizen.
2. Stateless person means a foreigner who is not considered as a citizen of any State under the operation of its law.
The originally submitted proposals of amendments to Foreigners Act by the Ministry of internal affairs (SEE PDF VERSION CLICK HERE) did not contain any proposed amendments that would take into consideration any special provisions for people of Croatian descent and blood living in the diaspora who do not hold the Croatian citizenship. Hence, under the old and amended proposal by the Ministry of Internal Affairs such a person remains an alien, a foreigner, a stranger… while in Croatia. Had all the internal affairs ministry’s recommendations for amendments of the Act remained devoid of any deservedly special consideration or rights of persons of Croatian descent as, say, members of Croatian expats if born abroad to Croatian emigrants or migrants themselves who had not gone through the process of acquiring citizenship of Croatia after the breakup of Yugoslavia, then this amended Act would also spell yet another disaster for the Croatian government’s constant counting on the diaspora to come and invest, to return, etc.
At first look, though, it would seem that the Parliamentary committee on Croatians living outside the Republic of Croatia, headed by HDZ’s Bozo Ljubic, have “saved the day” for Croats without Croatian citizenship not to be considered foreigners while in Croatia – but, alarmingly, the final truth may indeed turn out not to be so. That is, the Committee had on its December 2016 meeting formulated its recommendation for the amendment by which it proposes an insertion of a new Clause 3, however that same Clause 3 may end up clashing with the new Clause 1 as far as the definition of foreigner under the Act is concerned. The Committee’s proposed new Clause 3 reads:
“Croatians with foreign citizenship or without citizenship are not considered foreigners in the meaning of this Act.”
In its supporting arguments for this amendment recommendation the Committee states: “Within the rights to enter, move around, residence and work, persons of Croatian nationality should be made equal to Croatian citizens because that is of demographic and economic interest for the Republic of Croatia as well as its Constitutional responsibility.”
That Constitutional responsibility spills in the Article 89 of the Croatian Parliament Procedures, which regulates the scope of work of the Committee for Croatians living outside the Republic of Croatia …”
The above recommended provision under new Article 3 is, according to the Committee, “in accord with the laws of the EU member states with which the status of the members of the indigenous (parent) people without a citizenship and foreigners intending to settle, seek residency, citizenship or simply want a work permit and stay are regulated with the receiving country.”
While this recommendation is commendable and in much – ideal, until one gets his/her citizenship in order while in Croatia, it does only cover the rights while in Croatia, not necessarily in EU. It will be interesting to see whether this recommendation will actually be voted into the amended Foreigners Act and, more importantly, whether – even if it is voted in – there will be a clash and interference with the newly formulated Clause 1 of Article 2, which under the Ministry of Internal Affairs now reads:
“ A foreigner is a person who is not a Croatian citizen, but has the citizenship of a member state of EEA, Swiss Confederation, citizenship of a third country or is a stateless person.”
It would appear that the Parliamentary Committee’s on Croatians living outside the Republic of Croatia proposed amendment to Article 2 – adding of new Clause 3 – clashes seriously with Clause 1 of Article 2 amendment as proposed by the Ministry of Internal affairs. Unless, of course, if the Committee’s amendment is accepted and then new Clause 1 is re-worded automatically to accommodate the meaning of the new Clause 3. But then again, why would the Parliamentary Committee recommend a whole new Clause 3 if its proposal could well fit into re-defining the “foreigner” status in Clause 1 for the purposes of the Act (?). Perhaps the Committees proposed Clause 3 could be merged into Clause 1?
I’m really quite intrigued to see how the parliament will solve this apparent confusion and source of concern for many when it comes to the definition of foreigner and its relationship to Croatian nationals without sorted Croatian citizenship. If all recommended amendments go through as recommended (incompatible foreigner definitions contained in two separate recommended amendment Clauses), will for the sake of defining “foreigner” Clause 1 of Article 2 take precedence over the Committee’s Clause 3 or vice versa? Can you have a definition (of foreigner) and a counter or an incompatible definition (of foreigner) under the same Article of the same Act, or in the same Act for that matter! Which Clause, if any, will in the end define whether a Croat without Croatian citizenship is a foreigner while in Croatia under the Act if both recommendations are accepted? Will Croats of Croatian blood remain foreigners while in Croatia regardless of new amendments to Foreigners Act being ushered through the parliament as a matter of urgency?
Why didn’t the Parliamentary Committee for Croats abroad pursue a different line of recommendation that would bring closer to realisation the right of Croatian people to Croatian citizenship? Why didn’t the Parliamentary Committee recommend an amendment that would not only give Croatians without Croatian citizenship the right to be treated (without the confusion between Clauses in Article 2 regarding the definition of Foreigner) as Croatian citizens while in Croatia but also the right to receive Croatian citizenship under special conditions say after 3 months living in the country or something like this? – And then, attend to amending the Citizenship Act – a.s.a.p! As I read the proposed amendments to the Foreigners Act looks like Croats of Croatian blood without Croatian citizenship may continue to enjoy the status of losers when it comes to special rights under ethnicity for citizenship, which – by the way – several countries already practice around the world. It is a fact that multitudes never got around to sorting the paperwork for transfer from Yugoslav citizenship to the Croatian one after the breakup of Yugoslavia because the Croatian bureaucracy and laws and regulations and communist habits made it all too hard for many to get their citizenship. So, if you’re out there, of Croatian descent and would like the citizenship, do go for it, insist and persist – you will be proud in the end! Foreigner or no foreigner under the Foreigners Act! Ina Vukic