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German citizenship law debated

March 12, 2014

A plan by Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition to slightly modify Germany's strict citizenship law for young residents of foreign origin has been criticized by opposition parties. They say the move is insufficient.


Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said Wednesday Germany should only allow restricted dual citizenship among migrant youngsters who had grown up in Germany.

Under the so-called "options model," children born to foreign parents resident in Germany can initially have two nationalities but must decide by their 23rd birthday either to keep or apply for a German passport or to use a passport akin to their parents' foreign citizenship.

De Maiziere's remark on the sidelines of Bundestag debate was prompted by a legislative drive by three of Germany's 16 Länder, or regional states, for dual citizenship to be widely granted to such young adults.

Three Länder demand liberalization

The three states – Rheinland-Palatinate, Schleswig-Holstein and Baden-Württemberg – have regional governments combining the opposition Greens and Social Democrats (SPD), who also govern at the federal level in cabinet with Merkel's conservatives.

Her grand coalition's cross-party agreement reached late last year foresees the removal of the options model but only on a limited scale.

The three states, however, want legislative acceptance of dual citizenship for all migrants born in Germany via Germany's upper chamber of parliament, the Bundesrat.

De Maiziere wants proof

On Wednesday in Berlin, de Maiziere defended a draft bill that would require young people to present a minimum school-leaving qualification and proof of at least 12 years' residence in Germany.

This complied with the coalition agreement, he said. The non-negotiable criterion was that such children had grown up in Germany, he added.

Federal SPD parliamentarian Eva Högl said the three Länder were entitled to seek an amendment, but reiterated that her SPD at federal level was bound by its coalition agreement with Merkel.

'Bureaucratic monster'

Greens parliamentarian Volker Beck told the lower chamber, the Bundestag, on Wednesday that de Maiziere's amendment was a "bureaucratic monster" that would hinder integration efforts in Germany.

"That is truly utter nonsense," Beck said.

Petra Pau of the leftist party die Linke said Germany should have an "open citizenship law framework and not an "exclusionary" setup.

Another Greens parliamentarian, Ozcan Mutlu, asked: "How long must a person have breathed air in Germany before one is German enough?"

"The options model should at long last be completely rescinded," Mutlu said.

ipj/kms (dpa, AFP)

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