Opinion: Who′s afraid of dual citizenship? | Opinion | DW | 09.08.2016
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Opinion

Opinion: Who's afraid of dual citizenship?

Those who are opposed to dual citizenship say that it is a threat to democracy and should therefore be done away with. But Zoran Arbutina says that it is cheap propaganda and ignores reality.

The issue of dual citizenship is dividing opinion in Germany. The arguments against it are old fashioned to say the least: Citizens cannot "serve two masters," and the conflict of allegiance for those who possess two passports is emphasized. Such arguments are designed to influence mood and create fear: Opponents of dual citizenship often talk of the threat of a "fifth column" for despots and autocrats, and call into question the democratic will and capacity of those with two passports. The message is clear: Danger is on the way!

But the argument is not aimed at Trump supporters among American-Germans, Le Pen supporters among French-Germans, Kaczynski fans among the 690,000 Polish-Germans, nor those among the 570,000 Russian-Germans that are sympathetic to Vladimir Putin. No, the problem is with those among the 530,000 Turkish-German dual citizens in Germany that support Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan is currently Germany's favorite bogeyman, the one person that threatens European democracy and that we should all be afraid of. And we should also fear his fifth column, the Turkish-Germans living here and just waiting for Ankara to give them the signal to mobilize.

Enemies of democracy

Arbutina, Zoran

DW's Zoran Arbutina

However: Doing away with dual citizenship will not solve any of the real or perceived problems that its opponents envision. Dual citizenship is anchored in current EU law. Thus, EU citizens cannot be deprived of it. Therefore Germans have to tolerate the Orban supporters among Hungarian-Germans as well as the nostalgic right-wing extremist Ustashe fans among Croatian-Germans.

Apparently, the real issue only has to do with the Turks. In that case it would serve us well to recall a few facts: According to the 2011 federal census, about 4.3 million people in Germany had citizenship in a second country in addition to being German passport holders. Of those, some 500,000 were Turks. In comparison: 1.5 million Turkish people were living in Germany without German passports, and 800,000 people of Turkish origin had only a German passport. So, on the whole, less than 20 percent of all Turks in Germany have dual citizenship. So where exactly does the threat to German democracy lie?

This most recent discussion on dual citizenship flared up at a pro-Erdogan demonstration two weekends ago in Cologne. Some 30,000 to 40,000 people demonstrated at the event - which figures out to about six or seven percent of all Turkish-German dual citizens, or 1.5 percent of all persons of Turkish descent living in Germany. Even if every single person at the event were an avowed enemy of democracy - it would still be no greater a number than all opinion polls and election results tend to register among ethnic Germans with no immigrant background.

Not a threat - an enrichment

The favorite argument of dual citizenship opponents is the equation: two passports = dual allegiance. That has little to do with reality. Multi-faceted identity is a matter of fact for millions of people with migrant backgrounds living in Germany. It is a matter of different languages, different cultures and different answers to the question: Where do I feel comfortable, where am I at home? Dual citizenship is a possible answer, and a clear sign of belonging to two different worlds. The belief that someone who is forced to forfeit a passport will also forfeit his or her loyalty is a fallacy. It would only lead to bitterness, hypocrisy and estrangement. For loyalty is like love: You can force someone to have sex, but you cannot force them to love you!

Of course democracy must have the possibility to defend itself against its enemies. But modern democracies can only survive and flourish as open societies. One expression of this openness is to allow citizens to live their identities as they feel them - even if that means they need two passports to do so.

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