EUDO Citizenship Observatory Country Report: Czech Republic
[31/12/2009] [Czech Republic] [Academic paper/Research] [English]
Posted by : Katy Kefferputz, Migration Policy Group
Authors : Andrea Baršová - EUDO Citizenship Observatory
The development of Czechoslovak (1918) and Czech (1993) citizenship legislation shows a cyclical model consisting of revolutionary, evolutionary and consolidation phases. The last revolutionary phase was linked to the 1989 overthrow of the communist regime and the creation of an independent Czech Republic in 1993. It found its expression in a 1990 law which allowed for restitution of citizenship by those who left the country in the communist era, a constitutional ban on the deprivation of citizenship, and a controversial 1993 Citizenship Act. The following evolutionary decade (1993–2003) was an era of piecemeal, remedial changes aimed mainly at eliminating some negative consequences of the law resulting from the break-up of Czechoslovakia. In 2003, with the last major amendment to the 1993 citizenship law, most of the unique problems related to the break-up of Czechoslovakia were solved. At the same time, the launch of preparatory works on a new citizenship code prompted, inter alia, by increased immigration, signalled a shift to a consolidation phase, in which standard regulations of citizenship legislation, such as naturalisation, return to the agenda. However, the process is slow and a clear trend emerges towards watering down the initial, more liberal vision of the future citizenship regime. Preference for sticking to the status quo is becoming increasingly dominant.
At present, Czech citizenship legislation is at a crossroads. It is not only the new, open approach to dual nationality or to second generation migrants which is at stake, but also, at a deeper level, the statist spirit of the law. In spite of changing political regimes, some fundamental features of the Czech citizenship legislation remain stable. The enduring statist spirit, which we can broadly characterise as prioritising the state’s perspective over the rights and needs of persons, dates back to the nineteenth century Habsburg Empire. It manifests itself best in the approach to naturalisation. Naturalisation, in this perspective, is an act of mercy by the state, exercised in the sphere of unlimited administrative discretion. Since the establishment of the institution of the Ombudsman in 2001, and the Supreme Administrative Court in 2003, such archaic views are increasingly under attack. The new citizenship code could possibly present a milestone on a path towards modern, more liberal legislation. Nonetheless, it may as well, under the pretext of consolidation, cause stagnation, or even throw development back, in particular as regards the security of citizenship status and restraining administrative discretion.