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The New Roumanian Nationality Amendment Draft Law: Shortcomings Explained by Deputy Fischer Presiden

The President of the Jewish Party, Deputy Dr. Theodore Fischer, speaking at to-day’s sitting of the Chamber, interpellated the Minister of Justice, M. Harmangiu, concerning the new bill which he has introduced in the Senate for modifying the existing Roumanian Nationality Law, and asked for permission to introduce another bill which would be so conceived, he said, that it would give an opportunity to all persons who are entitled to Roumanian citizenship to acquire their citizenship rights. He drew attention to the fact that there are an extremely large number of people born in the country who under the existing laws and the various formalities bound up with them, have been unable to have their right to citizenship recognised.

The shortcomings of M. Harmangiu’s bill are also indicated by Dr. Wilhelm Filderman, the President of the Union of Roumanian Jews, in a memorandum, in which he points out that according to paragraph 56 of the Nationality Law enacted on February 24., 1924, all inhabitants of the annexed provinces, as well as of the Old Kingdom, should have received full Roumanian citizenship without any further formalities. This provision was, however, practically annulled, he says, by Paragraph 64 of the same Law, which conferred the power on the administrative authorities in the towns of establishing the legal position of each applicant for citizenship. Paragraph 65 of the Law contains provisions, Dr. Filderman declares, which are to be found in the legislation of no other country. According to this paragraph, anyone whose name did not appear in the register of citizens and who did not appeal against the exclusion within 20 days is considered to have forfeited his right and that of his descendants to claim recognition of their citizenship rights. It so happens, he proceeds, that the Citizenship Law was put into operation at a time when there was disquiet and a great deal of agitation in the country. Many inhabitants whose names were not included on the register of citizens had no means of knowing of the omission. In many places the lists of citizens were not even posted up, and demands that they should be posted up were rejected. Naturally, such people could not make an appeal as required by the law. In many other cases appeals were made, but were ignored, because of some technical formality.

All these people were left only with the option of acquiring individual citizenship in accordance with paragraph 67 of the Law. Under this form of acquiring citizenship it is necessary to prove ten years unbroken residence in the country, calculated from the time of the submission of the application. There was only one class of people who were excepted by the law from loss of citizenship for not having lodged an appeal in time – those who, when the law came into operation were not in their proper place of residence, and these continued to have the right at any time to approach the local authorities for inclusion in the citizenship lists. This provision was weakened, however, in January 1928, when a limit was set also for them, the period fixed being December 31st., 1928.

The modification bill which has now been introduced by the Minister of Justice in the Senate does nothing more, Dr. Filderman says, than merely prolong this period until December 31st., 1932, and the modification of the law, which would be effected by this bill, will be very restricted in value. It seems that the project will affect only a very limited number of people.

From the point of view of the Jewish population, Dr. Filderman declares, this modification can be regarded as non-existent, because it does not take into account any of the complaints made on the Jewish side against the Law of January 1924. The injustices committed against the Jews of the new provinces who were deprived of their rights granted them by international public law and by the express decisions of the Peace Treaties are continued. International law provides that the inhabitants of annexed territories should receive the same unrestricted rights as the inhabitants of the annexing States. This decision was also formally introduced in the Peace Treaties. It is without precedence in the legislation of any country of the world that a man who has a legal right to the automatic recognition of his full citizenship should forfeit this right if he does not apply for it by a certain date.

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