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Germany 'needs better rules' for citizenship, says Scholz

November 26, 2022

Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany has become "the country of hope" for many immigrants, and that the naturalization process needs revamping.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz sits in the lower house of parliament during a debate
Scholz's government is pushing for citizenship reform, but their plans need to win the support of conservatives in order to become lawImage: Christian Mang/REUTERS

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for reforms to the country's citizenship rules in a video message Saturday.

Scholz's coalition government — comprised of his center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the environmentalist Green Party and the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) — made easing citizenship rules one of the priorities in their coalition agreement.

The plans have received pushback from the conservative opposition.

What did Scholz say?

In his weekly video message, Scholz emphasized the integral role that immigrants have played in rebuilding and strengthening Germany.

"Germany has become a country of hope for many," the chancellor said. "The women and men and sometimes children who came to Germany have contributed greatly to making our economy as strong as it is today."

Scholz noted that many who came to the country as guest workers decades ago, as well as those who arrived in more recent years, have put down roots in Germany. He recalled the "very moving" naturalization ceremonies he oversaw in his previous role as mayor of Hamburg.

"And that is why it is a good thing when those who have been living with us for so long also decide to acquire German citizenship," the chancellor said.

"Germany needs better rules for the naturalization of these incredible women and men," Scholz emphasized.

What are the proposed changes?

The chancellors remarks come a day after the Interior Ministry said draft legislation on reforming the citizenship process was "as good as ready."

According to German media reports, the draft law would allow foreigners living in Germany to apply for citizenship after five years instead of the current eight-year minimum.

Naturalization could also become available for people after just three years of living in Germany if the applicants complete "special integration measures." The reports did not provide further details on what those measures entail.

The draft law could also potentially make it easier for more immigrants in Germany to hold dual citizenship. Currently, the dual-citizen status is only permitted for people from Switzerland or fellow European Union citizens.

On Friday, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said cutting down the waiting time for citizenship is "an incentive for integration," and that the reforms would seek to reflect reality.

"We are a diverse, modern country of immigration, and I think legislation must reflect that," she said.

Equal opportunities for migrants?

Pushback from conservatives

The proposed reforms have been sharply criticized by the conservative CDU/CSU bloc, who argue that the changes perhaps go too far.

"Selling off German citizenship cheap doesn't encourage integration — it aims for exactly the opposite and will trigger additional 'pull effects' for illegal migration,'' senior CDU lawmaker Alexander Dobrindt told the daily Bild newspaper Saturday.

The citizenship reform plans could potentially face hold-ups in the upper house of Germany's parliament, the Bundesrat, where Scholz's coalition does not have a majority.

Germany is the EU's most populous country, with a population of 84 million people. The latest government statistics from 2021 show that 11.8 million of the country's population are foreign nationals —approximately 14%.

rs/ar (AP, dpa)

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