Published: 7 january 2013 10:59
BNS

Lithuanian president refuses citizenship to ice skater Isabella Tobias

President Dalia Grybauskaitė has refused Lithuanian citizenship to US ice dancer Isabella Tobias who wanted a Lithuanian passport to be able to represent the country with Deividas Stagniūnas at Sochi Winter Olympics.
Isabella Tobias and her Lithuanian partner Deividas Stagniūnas
Eriko Ovčarenko/15min.lt nuotr. / Isabella Tobias and her Lithuanian partner Deividas Stagniūnas

The president's decision was based on a previous explanation of the Constitutional Court, which ruled that future merits cannot be the basis for granting the Lithuanian citizenship, the presidential press service told BNS.

"Citizenship may be granted by exception to foreign citizens who have undisputable merits to the Lithuanian state, have integrated with the Lithuanian society and share constant factual connections with Lithuania," the President's Office quoted the criteria for granting Lithuanian citizenship said.

According to the press release, granting citizenship to individuals who fall short of at least one or more of the requirements stipulated by law would breach the Citizenship Law and the Constitution.

The Citizenship Commission also recommended against granting Lithuanian citizenship to Tobias.

Tobias and Stagniūnas have on numerous occasions stated that partticipating in the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games is their main goal. But the American will not be able to take part in them unless she is granted Lithuanian citizenship.

The pair came in 9th at the European Figure Skating Championships last year.

In 2009, President Grybauskaitė decided against granting Lithuanian citizenship to the previous partner of Stagniūnas, Katherine Leigh Copely, following two recommendations of the Citizenship Commission which stated then that granting citizenship to Copely would run counter to the Constitution and laws.

President bound by the Constitution

In her decision President Grybauskaitė was bound by the Constitution and other laws that stipulate rigid restrictions, the president's adviser said.

Rūta Svetikaitė, who heads the Legal Division at the President's Office, said that citizenship could not be treated as a gift, adding that Tobias did not meet any of the required criteria – special merits to the state and integration into the Lithuanian society.

"Our Constitution and Citizenship Law are very strict about granting citizenship by exception. The Citizenship Law stipulates clearly that it should be a person who has special merits to the Lithuanian state. Citizenship cannot be granted for future merits," Svetikaitė told BNS.

In her words, even though it is the president of the republic who can decide whether an applicant meets the criteria and deserves to be a citizen of Lithuania, the head-of-state is bound by the Constitutional Court doctrine, which does not allow granting citizenship for anticipated merits.

"Both special merits and integration in the Lithuanian society are the criteria that should be considered. The only subject authorized to decide on granting citizenship by exception is the president. However, the president is not free in the sense that she is bound by the Constitution, rulings of the Constitutional Court, and the Citizenship Law," Svetikaitė added.

In the adviser's words, citizenship cannot be treated as a gift, as the institute reflects a person's legal relation to the state.

"The essence of citizenship is the confirmation of a person's legal connection to the state. It is not just an act that would enable a person to enter the country or benefit from it. Citizenship is not a gift or a state award," she stated.

Devastated

Ice dancers Deividas Stagniūnas and Isabella Tobias said they were devastated over the president's decision.

"Well everyone, thank you so much for everything. As I'm sure you can understand, we are devastated," the couple said on Facebook.

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