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Slovakia amends controversial dual citizenship ban

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(BRATISLAVA) - The Slovak parliament on Thursday stopped short of removing a controversial ban on dual citizenship, passing measures allowing citizens to hold two passports only if they meet certain conditions.

"Slovaks who are long-term residents of another country, work or study there can get a second passport from that country," the parliament said on its website Thursday, explaining the new measures.

Slovaks, whose parents were born in another state, are also entitled to a second passport, it added.

In July, Slovakia's previous nationalist-allied government introduced the total ban on dual citizenship in retaliation against a law in neighbouring Hungary allowing ethnic Hungarians abroad to gain Hungarian citizenship.

The Hungarian dual citizenship law concerns 3.5 million ethnic Hungarians living in nearby countries, mostly Romania and Slovakia.

Hungarians make up almost 10 percent of Slovakia's 5.4 million citizens and are its largest ethnic minority.

Last month, Slovakia's new centre-right government said it was tabling an amendment removing the dual citizenship ban.

But Thursday's legislation leaves the door open to dual citizens being stripped of their Slovak passports if they fail to prove they meet the specified conditions.

Chairman of the ethnic Hungarian non-parliamentary SMK party, Jozsef Bereny, slammed the move saying the vote saw "nationalism, populism and hungaro-phobia defeated common sense" in the parliament.

The vote also sent jitters through the governing centre-right four-party coalition of Prime Minister Iveta Radicova, in power since July.

Two rebel governing coalition deputies crossed the floor over to the opposition to force the passage of the conditional version of the dual citizenship law.

Radicova's coalition gathered for talks shortly after the vote that showed its weak 79-vote majority in the 150-member parliament was in jeopardy.

A total of 25 people lost their Slovak citizenship after the controversial dual citizen ship ban came into effect, but only one of them was Hungarian, the interior ministry said in January.

They will now be able to regain their Slovak passports if they can prove they meet the conditions specified in the amended law.

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