Although the persons of Roma ethnicity who were deprived of the Czech citizenship upon the split of the Czech and Slovak Federation by controversial law No. 40/1993 were not in the end left stateless, the Commission can be reproached for not using the influential position it enjoyed in the course of the pre-accession process preceding the fifth enlargement of the European Union (1 May 2004) in order to insist that the Czech Republic alter its ethnically-biased citizenship policy. Although some steps in this direction were taken by the Commission, they fell short of addressing the whole range of discriminatory provisions of this Czech legislation preventing the former Czecho-Slovak citizens of Roma ethnicity from becoming citizens of the Czech Republic. In Addition to the overall ineffectiveness of its pre-accession promotion of equal access to Czech citizenship of all permanent residents of the Czech Republic their ethnic origin notwithstanding, the Commission made a controversial decision to treat the exclusion from citizenship which was de facto based on ethnicity as a ‘civil and political’ rights issue, rather than a minority rights issue. This dubious decision, allowed the Commission to distinguish its pre-accession involvement in the reforms in the Czech Republic on the one hand, and in Latvia and Estonia on the other, where the exclusion of ethnic minorities from the access to citizenship was regarded as a key issue pertaining to the protection of minority rights. The ill-articulated position of the Commission is due, this paper suggests, mainly to the limitations on the EU’s involvement in the Member States’ citizenship domain and de facto comes down to the application of different pre-accession standards to different minority groups in the candidate countries. To ensure genuine protection of ethnic minorities in the Member States-to-be, the EU has to alter its approach to the issues of ethnicity-based exclusion from citizenship in the course of the future expansions of the Union.
Minority protection, citizenship, EU enlargement, Pre-accession, EU Law, Conditionality
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