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Foreigners applying for German citizenship must relinquish their original nationalityImage: picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb

Dual Citizenship

DW staff (tt)
April 24, 2007

A public debate about the introduction of dual German citizenship has resurfaced after a senior Social Democratic Party (SPD) member demanded new incentives for foreigners to integrate into German society.


Ralf Stegner, interior minister in the regional state of Schleswig-Holstein, has urged conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel to rethink her position on dual citizenship, saying law-abiding foreigners should be given the chance to become German citizens while maintaining their original nationality.

"Those foreigners who are well-integrated, speak the German language and have an income of their own should be offered German citizenship," Stegner told the weekly Bild am Sonntag. "And that without the precondition of having to relinquish their original nationality first."

Latest available statistics show that in 2005 only about 110,000 foreigners applied to become German nationals -- a drop by almost 60 percent compared with the year 2000 when figures peaked in postwar Germany. At that time the previous SPD-led government made it easier for Germany's four million foreigners to become citizens of this country.

Conservative backlash

Deutschland SPD Schleswig-Holstein Ralf Stegner
Ralf Stegner wants to make it easier for foreigners to become German citizensImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

The introduction of dual citizenship, however, was prevented by the country's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU). A nationwide signature campaign spearheaded by CDU state premier Roland Koch stopped a more far-reaching citizenship reform.

The powerful regional leader is again stonewalling against softening citizenship laws.

"The conditions for granting German citizenship must remain crystal clear," Koch said. "The majority population must be sure that applicants integrate and accept German life as it is. Citizenship is a manifestation that should not be made easy and dual citizenship must remain an exception rather than the rule."

Bloodlines and ethnicity

Deutschland Hessen Ministerpräsident Roland Koch
Conservatives such as Roland Koch are generally opposed to a far-reaching citizenship reformImage: AP

Nationality in Germany is still largely based on bloodlines. Critics denounce this arguing that ethnic Germans from the former Soviet Union who know just little about life here automatically receive citizenship while children of immigrants born in Germany are technically foreigners. Current laws, they say, are a slap in the face especially of Turks here who have strong links to their country and religion.

"Certainly, the more Muslims have a German passport the better they know who to vote for," said Abdul Hadi Hoffmann, deputy head of the Berlin-based Muslim Academy.

"So we do encourage Muslims to participate in German society and politics," he added. "However, if someone decides to lead his family life, earn a living and not spend his evenings in a bar drinking beer, this is not a sign of isolation and of being against the German state."

The debate unleashed by Germany's Social Democrats comes at a time when less Turkish nationals living in Germany opt to become citizens of their host country. This number has dropped by amore than half recently from 103,000 applicants in 1999 to merely 44,000 last year. Politicians like Ralf Stegner fear that this is a sign of Germany's largest immigrant community -- boasting 3.5 million people -- is gradually retreating from mainstream society.

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