German Cabinet Approves Disputed ID Cards, Citizenship Test | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 23.07.2008
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German Cabinet Approves Disputed ID Cards, Citizenship Test

The German cabinet on Friday gave the go-ahead for a new controversial citizenship test for immigrants and new identification cards to German citizens amid continuing fears the latter could erode privacy rights.

ID card and finger

Digital fingerprints will be optional

The new ID card is the result of a compromise between conservative Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaueble, who was pushing for compulsory digital fingerprints that he said would boost security, and data-privacy proponents who argued it would erode privacy rights.

However, members of the opposition Green party and the Left Party said the new identification card still posed grave risks and did not bring added security.

Silke Stokar, domestic affairs spokeswoman for the Green Party in parliament, urged German citizens not to voluntarily give their digital fingerprint, warning there was no knowing what would happen to the data abroad where German data privacy laws did not apply.

"The digital fingerprint should only be used for official police investigations and not in identification cards," Stokar said.

Immigrants groups against citizenship test

The German cabinet also formally approved a new citizenship test for would-be Germans that has angered immigrant groups in the country.

Those applying for a German passport will in future have to undergo a written test and answer at least 17 of 33 multiple choice questions on German history, culture and politicians correctly to pass. The exam will cost applicants 25 euros ($40) for a try and they will be given the questions beforehand to study.

Critics of the test say it is too difficult and doubt whether even Germans would be able to pass it. Germany has an estimated seven million permanent residents without a German passport.

Germany's 2.3-million strong Turkish community has been especially critical of the test and prominent representatives for the group have lobbied the German government for the right to keep both Turkish and German passports.

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