In legal theory, citizenship is defined as a public-legal bond between an individual and the state, from which certain rights and obligations arise. The rights and obligations arising from acquired citizenship are binding on the citizens of the respective countries, while such rights are not guaranteed to foreigners. Therefore, for example, citizens assert active and passive voting rights, the right to acquire real estate or the obligation to serve in the armed forces of the country of which they are citizens.
Contemporary trends in population migration and globalization in the general sense of the word have led to the question of whether an individual can be a citizen of more than one country at the same time, i.e., whether a citizen can obtain the so-called dual citizenship. This issue became topical in our region after the dissolution of the SFRY, when many individuals acquired the conditions for citizenship of several former member states of the SFRY.
Each country regulates the issue of acquiring its citizenship and the possibility of acquiring another citizenship with its domestic legislation. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the issue of citizenship is regulated by the Law on Citizenship of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as entity laws on citizenship. BiH citizenship is acquired in accordance with the provisions of the Law: by descent, by birth on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, by adoption, by naturalization, and by international agreement.
According to the Law on Citizenship of Bosnia and Herzegovina, citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina may obtain the citizenship of another country, provided that there is a bilateral agreement between Bosnia and Herzegovina and that particular country regulating the issue, and that the same was consequently approved by the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina in accordance with Article IV 4 d) of the Constitution.
Bosnia and Herzegovina currently has concluded bilateral agreements with three countries, namely the Republic of Serbia, the Republic of Croatia, and the Kingdom of Sweden. Therefore, citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina can, in addition to the citizenship of BiH, in addition have the citizenship of one of the three mentioned countries, in accordance with the provisions of international treaties.
Related to this issue is the issue of monitoring the acquisition of citizenship of another country. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, there is no established monitoring mechanism, so it is possible for an individual, in addition to the citizenship of BiH, to acquire the citizenship of another country (except those with which BiH has concluded a bilateral agreement). This will be possible in cases where the foreign country, whose citizenship is acquired, does not require the termination of the previous citizenship as a condition for acquiring citizenship in that country. In that case, it will be possible for a citizen of BiH to have the citizenship of other countries, except for the three states with which BiH has bilateral agreements on the acquisition of dual citizenship.
The conditions for acquiring citizenship are prescribed by the law of the country whose citizenship is being acquired, while in the case of dual citizenship, the provisions of bilateral agreements that prescribe the conditions for acquiring another citizenship are also applied.
Thus, for example, in the Treaty on Dual Citizenship between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (now Serbia), the contracting states agree that a citizen of one contracting state can also acquire the citizenship of another contracting state. The citizenship of one contracting state can be acquired by a citizen of another contracting state, under the following conditions: 1) that he/she has reached the age of 18, 2) that he/she has a registered stay of at least three years in the territory of the contracting state whose citizenship he/she acquires, or for at least one year if he/she is married to a citizen of that contracting state, 3) that he/she has not been convicted in the contracting state whose citizenship he/she acquires for criminal offenses for which a prison sentence of more than three years has been prescribed, 4) that he has not been issued a security measure of expulsion of a foreigner from the contracting state whose citizenship he/she acquired in the last three years before submitting the request or a protective measure of removal of a foreigner from the territory of the contracting state whose citizenship he/she acquired in the last year before submitting the request, 5) that it can be concluded from his/her behaviour that he/she will respect the legal order of the contracting state whose citizenship he/she acquires. In addition, the Treaty clearly stipulates that the contracting states agree that citizens of one contracting state can acquire the citizenship of another contracting state in accordance with the legislation of the contracting states and that the acquisition of another citizenship will not be conditioned by the termination of the previous citizenship.
In addition, in the Treaty on Dual Citizenship that Bosnia and Herzegovina has concluded with the Republic of Croatia, it is stipulated that a citizen of one contracting state, who possesses or has acquired the citizenship of another contracting state in the manner and the procedure established by the regulations of that state, will not, as a result of this possession or acquisition lose the citizenship of the first contracting state, nor will he/she be required to apply for the termination of the citizenship of that state. This Treaty does not prescribe relief in terms of the conditions for acquiring citizenship, which are prescribed by the domestic legislation of the states but regulates the issue of the existence of dual citizenship, as well as the exercise of rights and obligations based on the citizenship of both states.
When it comes to sanctions for acquiring another citizenship, contrary to the regulations, in some countries, the law prescribes the loss of the citizenship of that country as a sanction. In some cases, the laws stipulate that certain formalities must be fulfilled before acquiring the citizenship of another country. In any case, it is necessary to consult the laws of both countries to determine the conditions and requirements necessary to acquire a second citizenship.
After acquiring dual citizenship, an individual has certain rights and obligations towards two countries, and the content of those rights and obligations is regulated by legal regulations and a bilateral agreement if it has been concluded.
The Law on BiH Citizenship does not provide for the possibility of automatic loss of BiH citizenship in case of acquiring the citizenship of another country. On the other hand, for the acquisition of BiH citizenship through naturalization, the Law stipulates that the condition is the renunciation or termination of previous citizenship before the acquisition of BiH citizenship, unless a bilateral agreement provides otherwise. Therefore, if an individual has the citizenship of a foreign country, he/she will be able to acquire BiH citizenship only if he/she renounces his previous citizenship, unless he/she is a citizen of a country with which BiH has concluded a bilateral agreement.
In the end, we can conclude that a relatively liberal conception of dual citizenship has been adopted in BiH, according to which the citizenship of BiH cannot be automatically taken away from an individual due to the fact that he/she has acquired the citizenship of another country, with the fact that an individual cannot become a citizen of BiH unless it is terminated earlier citizenship, except in the case of the existence of a bilateral interstate agreement.
Author: Igor Letica
E-mail: [email protected]