Croatian Origin And Citizenship Act Disaster

Croatian passport
Photo: Jelena Zanko

Croatian ancestry (Croatian origin), in terms of “automatic” right to Croatian citizenship under the Citizenship Act, stops with parents! Even in the current proposals for amendments to the Act! Shame on you, Croatian government!

Article 4 (of Croatian Citizenship Act currently in force) A child acquires Croatian citizenship by origin:

1. if both of his parents are Croatian citizens at the time of the child’s birth;

2. if one of his parents is a Croatian citizen at the time of the child’s birth and the child is born in the Republic of Croatia;

3. if one of the parents is a Croatian citizen at the time of the child’s birth, the other parent without citizenship or of unknown citizenship, and the child is born abroad.

A child of foreign citizenship or without citizenship acquires Croatian citizenship by origin if he has been adopted by Croatian parents, pursuant to provisions of a special law. Such a child is considered to be a Croatian citizen from the moment of his birth.”

“Automatic” right to citizenship by descent/Croatian origin is not to be confused with the possibility of acquiring citizenship by naturalisation. The latter involves a rather exhaustive process that requires application and proof of Croatian descent – and proof is acceptable up to and including third generation Croatian direct blood line of those born to Croatian emigrants.

In any decent democracy when a government releases draft amendments or drafts of new legislation for public discussions and submission then that process lasts reasonably long enough for the public to find out about it and to respond. In most cases at least one month is allowed within which members of the public are able to submit comments and/or suggestions.

In Croatia, the deeply disturbing fact is that the public (be it organisation or individuals) are given ONE week only from date of the release of documents for public discussion to the closing of submissions! When it comes to legislation which directly impacts the Croatian diaspora, or Croatians living in it, then, since the Croatian government, president and every politician keep saying that the diaspora will save Croatian economy with its return and/or investments, one would expect that at least the diaspora (if not citizens living in Croatia) would be given a fair chance to respond to the call for submissions on amendments to citizenship law. On 24 October 2018 the Croatian Ministry of Internal Affairs released the document on proposed Citizenship Act amendments for public discussion and submissions. The problem here is that submissions closed 3 November 2018!

Make your own conclusions as to how much this Croatian government really wants public submissions or ideas from its diaspora!

Be that as it may, there is at least some good news in the proposed amendments to the Croatian Citizenship Act and the good news stands to benefit particularly the members of the second and third, and so fourth, generations of people from Croatian descent living in the diaspora who do not have a command of the Croatian language. The amendments to the Act now recommend matters that concern the diaspora especially include:

• The Croatian language knowledge test be removed from the process of obtaining Croatian citizenship;

• Extension of time by which a person born outside Croatia, one of whose parents is a citizen of Croatia at the time of birth; they can now be placed on Croatian citizens’ register (through consulates and diplomatic missions) up until they are 21 years old.

• The possibility of acquiring Croatian citizenship by descent is also recommended for adults, born after 8 October 1991. As an exception to the regular acquisition of Croatian citizenship on the basis of an approved residency in Croatia, it is proposed that a foreigner who has started and graduated undergraduate and graduate studies in Croatian at one of the higher education institutions in Croatia, although not living in Croatia for eight years , if after graduation he/she lives in Croatia for at least 18 months he/she may obtain Croatian citizenship.

When a Croatian citizen passes onto his/her child their Croatian citizenship that child in effect becomes a Croatian citizen. This has always been the case, even under communist Yugoslavia laws, but the new proposed amendments to the Act proposes the period within which this can be done is extended until the child is 21. For many in the diaspora this is good news, especially those who did not know about this possibility and those who knew about it but didn’t get around to it in time.

One thing that disappoints me immensely (and I believe it equally disappoints many others) is that Croatian leadership and politicians constantly go on about how very important to Croatia and its future Croats in the diaspora are and yet – they fail miserably to reflect their words in deeds via Citizenship legislation! They call upon Croatian people to return to Croatia from the diaspora and fail to give as many as possible the right to do so as citizens by descent or Croatian ancestry! Citizenship means the right to live and work unimpeded and, therefore, facilitates any return from the diaspora.

In the preamble to the proposal for amendments to the citizenship Act the Croatian authorities say, among other things, that “The Croatian Citizenship Act incorporates the basic principles and standards known in European legislation, such as the principles of legal continuity of citizenship, the prevention of apartheid, the exclusivity of Croatian citizenship, the equality of marital, spousal and adopted children…”

Well now, Ireland is also in Europe and yet the right to citizenship by descent/ancestry is passed onto children as well as grandchildren. Hence, if you are born overseas you get your Irish citizenship if your parent/s or grandparent/s are/were citizens of Ireland! But Ireland said years ago it cares very much for its diaspora as part of Ireland and it demonstrates the commitment to its diaspora via its legislation. Then, there are provisions in British nationality law allowing a claim for citizenship from a grandparent or great grandparent. Then, main principle of Hungarian citizenship law is the ius sanguinis (latin for right of blood), meaning that descendants of Hungarian citizens are Hungarian citizens themselves by birth (regardless of the country of birth or the number of generations living abroad). Consequently, if any of your parents or grandparents is a Hungarian citizen or was one when you were born, it is very likely that you are one yourself.

Given all these examples and many more, when it comes to rights of citizenship by descent Croatia can’t really claim its own legislation reflects standards known in European legislation.

Croatia is amidst amendments to Citizenship legislation and boasts about how getting Croatian citizenship will be easier from now on via these new amendments to the Act, when in fact the changes do not cover that which is most needed to boost the prospect of people from diaspora of Croatian descent becoming citizens and returning to Croatia with relative ease.

And so ancestry or Croatian origin, in terms of the Citizenship Act, stops with parents!

Shame on you Croatia!

Not only should Croatia have followed Ireland, Britain … in extending the right to citizenship by descent/ancestry to grandparents but it should have gone further and extended it to great-grandparent ancestry, just like Hungary and some other countries do! Hopefully someone, who was fortunate enough to discover about public discussion and submissions on time, has made these submissions to the proposed amendments. We wait and see!

Given the history of Croatian emigration through the ages and the perils under which Croats were forced to emigrate this is the least Croatia, which says it loves its diaspora, can do for the diaspora and for itself. This is the least Croatia that keeps calling for the return of Croats from the diaspora could do for that deserving of citizenship rights diaspora. This is the absolute positive move Croatia that is reaching out to the Second and Third generation diaspora should have made, but failed miserably so far. Ina Vukic

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