Allow easy dual citizenship
30 September, 2014
As I was told, Zura Adeishvili sat at his computer meeting with Nino Burjanadze who a week before had stepped down as president to become speaker of parliament. In the new constitution, the active draft of which sat on his computer, Georgians were freely allowed to become citizens of any country they wanted to without compromising their Georgian citizenship. Burjanadze was worried about people getting Russian and Armenian citizenship freely but secretly, although many already had other passports. She was
adamant. So the compromise was that getting other citizenship would mean immediately giving up Georigan citizenship. The individual would then have to seek presidential approval to get Georgian citizenship and the president alone could grant it. Burjanadze was adamant about it and as always they were in a rush. They wanted to give Salome Zurabashvili and Kakha Bendukidze citizenship, bring them back to run ministries and most importantly change the governance structure to accommodate Zura Zhvania as Prime Minister while still keeping Misha in charge over all. They would push through the changes, bullying the old parliament into passing them in only three days.

That a president should grant the right to citizenship always seemed not right to me. Citizenship should be something that should be available to anybody who satisfied some pre-determined criterion.
Their parents or one parent were Georgian citizens, they had lived for some time, passed some test, invested some amount, whatever it was should be determined by a law not an individual. And of course there was the sad history of Misha handing out Georgian passports to visiting dignitaries as if they were party favors. And the even sadder story of Bidzina Ivanishvili having his citizenship status used to try to keep him out of politics. Legal corners could always be cut by the government but not by the opposition.

And now the formal leadership has followed the informal leadership in deciding they don't like the elected president. But he nevertheless decides who receives citizenship. Recently he questioned whether he should give it to the spectacularly corrupt former Interior Minister Kakha Targamadze. A reasonable question about such a nefarious character. But should a president be able to decide that? What if the person applying was a regular person and the president didn't like her or him? Why is the presidents judgement necessary at all?

There are several good reasons to get rid of individuals making judgements in general. Remember during Shevardnadze's time when you needed something with the government and somebody got to decide if it happened or not and wanted to be paid for it. If you wanted to get a passport you had to pay somebody money to decide to give you the passport. They had paid a great deal for the job and wanted to get back their money. The guy who was supposed to fix the roads didn't fix the roads he decided to fix a few roads when people paid him and the rest didn't get fixed. There isn't so much petty corruption now but there is still plenty of unnecessary decisions that could lead to corruption from the top to the bottom. And even if there isn't corruption, just let the law decide it is quicker and easier.

Particularly with passports. Almost all western countries in Europe and North America sell their passports, and the cost is going down. They don't say they are selling them but in fact they are. If you invest a certain amount, and wait a few years, you and your family will get passports. With Georgia's warm relationship with Europe, a Georgian passport is much more useful than many other passports in the region. Now would be a good time just allow dual citizenship under some agreed upon rules, and get rid of some completely unnecessary bureaucracy. Georgia as an progressive country would be a good place to set an example and be out ahead on this issue. On the other hand, amending the constitution to say that now the Prime Minister gets to decide rather than the President would be exactly the wrong step, wasting parliaments time on this embarrassing squabble.