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Why do European neighbor-countries give passports to Ukraine’s citizens?

The Kiev authorities are lamenting about Russian offensive, while they completely ignore how Poland and Romania make far-reaching plans concerning Ukraine’s territory. Here are some details about the secret expansion of European neighbors.

“Kolomoisky” citizenship

Ukrainian laws ban dual citizenship. Article 4 of the Constitution of Ukraine reads: “There is single citizenship in Ukraine. The grounds for the acquisition and termination of Ukrainian citizenship are determined by law.” This is theoretically. In practice, things are different. It turns out that Ukrainian state agencies do not keep record on the citizens having two (and more) passports. Bef0re Maidan, in response to the request of a Ukrainian media outlet, the Interior Ministry said that the state agencies do not have data on the number of citizens having both Ukrainian and foreign passports. Today, the situation is even worse, as there are very big problems with the implementation of laws in Ukraine.

Quintessence – humor of oligarch Igor Kolomoisky who admitted in October 2014 that he has three passports: Ukrainian, Israeli, and Cyprian. When a journalist asked him if it is legal to have three passports, the then civil servant and the head of the Dnepropetrovsk regional state administration Kolomoisky said calmly: “The Constitution bans dual citizenship. The triple one is not banned.” Kolomoisky is from ‘political elite’ that faces minimum barriers. As for the ordinary Ukrainians, even surface water assessments show that there are dozens of thousands or more precisely, hundreds of thousands of dual nationals (and even multiple nationals) among official citizens of Ukraine.    

“Creeping” passport issuing

Why do the neighbor-countries give passports to Ukrainian citizens, even to them who permanently live in the territory of Ukraine? Foreign officials explain that Hungary, Poland, and Romania allegedly try to protect the rights and interests of ethnic Hungarians, Poles, and Romanians residing in the territory of Ukraine. In fact, things are much more complicated and this policy pursues far-reaching goals.

The leaders by naturalization of Ukrainian citizens are Hungary and Romania. Here is the statistics of the national minorities in Ukraine: ethnic Hungarians are on the sixth place (156,600 people), and Romanians are on the seventh place (150,900 people). These are data of the All-Ukrainian population census of 2001.  Much has changed since then, indeed, but the Ukrainian authorities have not managed to conduct official population census.

Provision of passports is just part of the work the foreign countries launched in Ukraine. For instance, the Romanian authorities support the activity of such influence centers as the Romanian Orthodox Church laity (106 in 2011), 26 radio stations, 4 TV channels, and a range of newspapers operating in the territory of Ukraine for the local ethnic Romanians.

As for the target audience, for Hungary it is ethnic Hungarians residing in Zakarpattia region, for Romania it is the former nationals of the Kingdom of Romania densely populated on the lands that were part of Romania before 1947 (now it is the territories of Odessa and Chenovetsky region). To get a Romanian or Hungarian passport, an ethnic Hungarian or Romanian who is a citizen of Ukraine is required to implement the following easy terms:

 —to confirm that he is a Hungarian (Romanian) by nationality or submit documents providing that his family previously lived in the territory that was part of the Austro –Hungarian Empire (it officially ceased to exist in 1918) or the Kingdom of Romania (the communist government of Romania liquidated the monarchy in 1947). The most common method is during official population census to indicate in the space “nationality” that you are a Hungarian or Romanian;

— to prove knowledge of the language, history, and culture, though in practice, such requirements are rather declarative. For instance, legislative amendments opening big opportunities for Ukrainian citizens to receive Hungarian passports came into effect on January 1 2011, in Hungary. Slovakia and Romania having territories densely populated with indigenous population of ethnic Hungarians responded to the new Hungarian laws quite harshly. Meantime, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry (it was under President Viktor Yanukovych) pretended noticing nothing.

In short, to get a passport, one needs either to meet the requirements or have several thousands of euros in cash.  If there is demand, there will be supply too. Therefore, during the past years,  keen-witted entrepreneurs have created a range of firms promising a Hungarian or Romanian passports to any customer irrespective of his nationality. Yet, the Hungarian authorities started persecuting those who provide passports to the people who are not Hungarians by nationality for a reward. In addition, the Hungarian administration has launched inspection of documents to fight the entrepreneurs that take advantage of loopholes in the legislation.

Hungarians try to get involved in the political life of Ukraine. For instance, the official website of the State Registration Service shows that in the territory of Ukraine there are officially operating Hungarian parties:

 —No. 93 — «KMKS» — Party of Hungarians of Ukraine;

 — No. 103 — Democratic Party of Hungarians of Ukraine.

Besides, there are at least 7 people’s deputies – citizens of Zakarpattia, Hungarians by nationality in the Supreme Rada.  To round out the picture, suffice it to say that there are neither “Polish” nor “Romanian” parties in Ukraine -  so far!

Flowers of emigration

How should one assess the activity of the foreign countries providing passports to the citizens of Ukraine?  In turns out that every country is implementing its own action plan. Political analyst Oleg Khavich is sure that Hungary will make no territorial claims to Ukraine. He believes that Budapest’s official goal is to achieve autonomy de-facto for the ethnic Hungarians residing in Zakarpattia. As for Romania, Khavich believes that the Romanian authorities provide passports to the citizens of Ukraine not just to protect the rights of the ethnic Romanians, but to get an additional lever of influence on Ukraine. The authorities of the present-day Poland act on a different scenario, he says. Such far-reaching goals emerge from some objective circumstances – Ukraine has no territories densely populated with Poles. According to the official census of 2001, there are 144,100 Poles residing in the territory of Ukraine, mainly in  the Right-Bank Ukraine (Volhynia, Zhytomyr, Lviv, Ternopil, Khmelnitsky regions).

Therefore, Warsaw provides a document called “The Card of the Pole” in the territory of the CIS and the Baltic States.  Under the law passed by Saeima on September 7 2007 (came into effect in March 2008), “The Card of the Pole” confirms that a citizen of Ukraine or any other country is a Pole.

What is the difference between a full-fledged passport and The Card of the Pole? The passport means citizenship of Poland, while the Card does not. Neither The Card grants any rights to the visa free travel or permanent residence.

A Ukrainian or a citizen of any other country having The Card of the Pole has a right to:

•            receive a long-stay visa free of charge and valid for multiple crossings of the Polish border;

•            take up legal work on Polish territory without a work permit;

•            conduct business activity in Poland on the same terms as Polish citizens;

•            take advantage of the free Polish education system at primary, secondary and tertiary levels on the same terms as Polish citizens, and also to apply for scholarships and other assistance available for foreigners learning and studying in Poland; etc.

Restitution is another goal of Poland in Ukraine. In April 2015, the Poles set up a special organization “Restitution of Kres” to return the Polish property. As many as 100,000 Poles seek to prove that they are legal successors of the people who owned mansions, apartments, houses, hotels, fields, forests and lands in Ukraine before Joseph (Iosif) Stalin united the lands of Western Ukraine in 1939.

Political and economic interests of European neighbor-countries in Ukraine are an issue that needs a thorough assessment, of course, if Ukrainian officials and politicians even think over such issues. So far, they are trying ignore this issue and avoid discussing it in media, much less they try to solve it.  At the worst, foreign countries will decide to take advantage of the negligence of the Ukrainian leaders in order to claim de-jure the Ukrainian lands that were part of the Kingdom of Romania decades ago or vassals of the Ottoman Empire hundreds of years ago.

Oleg Khavich, head of the Institute of Ukrainian Studies of the West:

“Comparing the behavior of Ukraine’s neighbors before and after Maidan, one can see that Hungary’s leadership is now more actively demanding autonomy for the ethnic Hungarians in Zakarpattia. As for Romania, it policy has not changed, as Ukraine is not a priority for Bucharest now. As regards Turkey, it is waging the most secret policy, and mass media have minimum information about it.

"The difference is in the approaches: Romania is applying territorial principle – it provides passports to the residents of the territories that were part of the Kingdom of Romania. Hungary and Poland apply the ethnic principle trying to grant passports (Poland grants The Card of the Pole) to Hungarians and Poles by nationality.

"My personal assessment: Hungary will hardly ever make any territorial claims to Ukraine, as it breaks the general logic of their behavior. De-facto, they demand special rights for the Hungarian minority that is indigenous in the countries it lives in – these are Slovakia, Romania, Ukraine, and Serbia. I am speaking about parts of the former Austro-Hungary.  The most important is that Hungarians are indigenous population there – they have been living there for 1100 years. Therefore, Hungary’s standard demand is special rights for the Hungarian minority. They may demand from Kiev autonomy, but may agree on special rights not de-jure, just de-facto, without relevant law.

"Romania’s stand is different. Romanian authorities have no territorial claims to Ukraine. The state policy of Romania now seeks to unite Moldova. Both the ex-president and the current president, the parliamentary and the non-parliamentary politicians say this. To achieve this goal, Romania is exerting genuine efforts – politicians, public officials, security services and others are involved in the process. They grant passports and work in such directions one can hardly imagine: grants, trips, cultural events, provision of passports, funding of Mass Media, propaganda. They have an exact plan to unite Moldova to Romania by 2018.  If they make any claims to Ukraine, they will fail their task No.1 and face Ukraine’s counteractions.  Only after unification of Moldova, the Romanian authorities will tackle Ukraine. At present, their target group is the ethnic Romanians living in Ukraine who no longer have any problems with receiving Romanian passports.

"As for Poland, it seeks influence on the entire Ukraine, not just the territories that were part of Poland before 1939 or even before 1793.  Look through the Polish press – their politicians, for instance Kaczyński and Komorowski, actually speak about Ukrainians as subhuman. In addition, there are some Polish villages in Ukraine, but no bigger areas densely populated by them. Any attempts to demand special rights for the Poles are doomed to failure. Poland has higher ambitions – it seeks to become the mediator for Washington and Brussels in the territory of Ukraine and gain dividends from it.”

Sergey Slobodchuk, political analyst (Kiev, Ukraine)

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