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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    WED, 13 APR 1994 15:06:13 GMT

    Belgrade, April 11, 1944

    THE LAW ON CITIZENSHIP CHANGED

    Even though the Slovenian Parliament discussed changes to the Law on Citizenship in late November last year, the debate is on the agenda again. Nationalistically oriented deputies of Slovenian parliamentary parties fear people from the former Yugoslav countries more than they fear "real" foreigners, for which reason they wanted to tighten the conditions for acquiring Slovenian citizenship, in which, however, they did not quite succeed.

    In late November last year, deputies of the Slovenian Parliament, at the proposal of the opposition Slovenian People's Party of Marjan Podobnik, proposed some innovations to the three years old citizenship law, which was one of the laws within the so called "independence package". However, after the innovations were adopted, the State Council exercised its right to veto the adoption of the law. The proposers, nevertheless, succeeded in putting the law forward for consideration once again, as the Rules of Procedure allow, but did not succeed in getting the majority of votes.

    Just after the November "failure", the group of the nationalistically oriented deputies of the Slovenian People's Party prepared a new proposal for changes, according to which, in order to acquire citizenship with naturalization, the applicant has to have lived in Slovenia for not less than 15 year, of which 10 in continuity, because that is the only way to secure real integration into the environment.

    They also proposed that a person married to a Slovenian citizen can also acquire citizenship with naturalization, provided that he/she has lived in Slovenia for not less than five consecutive years and, of course, meets other requirements. However, in connection with this legal requirement, the proposers failed to mention the disputable formulation that this shall only apply to a person married to a Slovenian citizen "by birth". In fact, it is because of this very provision, which divides Slovenian citizens into two categories, that the law was not adopted last year. Namely, the State Council believed that such a formulation was contrary to the Slovenian Constitution according to which all citizens have equal rights and fundamental freedoms, that is, all citizens are equal before the law. That would have also been contrary to the international acts and treaties which define basic human rights and freedoms, also signed by the SFRY, of which Slovenia is a successor state.

    The required period of stay stipulated by the citizenship law, according to which a foreigner has to have lived in Slovenia for the minimum of 10 years, of which five consecutive years before submission of the citizenship application, has remained unchanged. Namely, when the law was under preparation, the legislator advocated tighter conditions, such as those in European countries. For instance, to acquire Austrian citizenship, one has to have lived in that country for 10 consecutive years, whereas the Swiss have alleviated the process and decided in favor of three years only.

    There will be no "language police" in Slovenia

    But, the Slovenian Parliament adopted a change to the law, according to which "the applicant has to be proficient in the Slovenian language, in both its written and oral forms, which he/she shall prove by the language proficiency test". The test is passed before the Expert Commission appointed by the Government, which determines the criteria for written and oral tests of Slovenian language. The Government, indeed, did not agree to such a change, because it believed that the Slovenian language test applied so far was quite appropriate.

    The deputies refused the proposal according to which a special service of the Ministry of the Interior was to determine whether the language condition is met. Namely, a kind of a "language police" was to determine whether an applicant for the Slovenian citizenship really speaks Slovenian in public and at his/her work place.

    During the debate, reference was made to some ridiculous possible situations. For instance: a language policeman tails a "candidate" in the streets, at restaurants (that, too, is public life) and supermarkets, and listens whether the applicant, i.e. candidate, speaks Slovenian. Some deputies were of the opinion that by the same token, it might be necessary to deny citizenship even to a great number of Slovenians.

    Political nature of changes of the law on citizenship

    In the debate on the proposed changes, other deputies, less nationalistically oriented, cautioned that this law is explicitly politicized, as Dr. Dimitrij Rupel said, and that it was high time for Slovenians to sober up and end the traditionally emotional determination of national questions. They have to get rid of xenophobia, Rupel said, adding: "there is no need for us to fear foreigners like in the past when we were under Austria or later, in the former Yugoslavia. Slovenia has all the possibilities to settle its relations with those who are not but want to become citizens of the Slovenian state".

    Zoran Thaler, Chairman of the Parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee, believes that a wrong impression is being created in public that Slovenia has been flooded with naturalized citizens, that is, those who get married to Slovenians in order to get hold of Slovenian citizenship. According to the information of the Ministry of the Interior, some 4,000 citizenships with naturalization have been granted thus far, compared to only some 600 citizenships by marriage. The latter figure equals the number of Slovenians killed in traffic accidents every year. In his opinion, the said figures can in no way endanger the Slovenian nation.

    TANJA HROVATIN, AIM