GP Short Notes

GP Short Notes # 800, 27 January 2024

Germany approves citizenship bill
Rosemary Kurian

In Focus
Germany: Approves citizenship bill easing naturalisation process and dual citizenship 
By Rosemary Kurian

On 19 January, the German Parliament Bundestag approved a legislation easing the naturalisation process for non-Germans and allowing dual citizenship for non-EU citizens. The bill was approved by the centre-left leaning coalition government consisting of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and the Greens. A total of 639 votes were cast in the Bundestag, with 382 in favour of the bill, 234 in opposition and 23 abstentions. Legal immigrants living in Germany would be eligible to gain German citizenship after five years of residence instead of the earlier eight, and under special circumstances of service to the German state, naturalisation will be granted in three years. Nancy Faeser, Germany's Interior Minister, noted that it was an effort in moulding the current stringent immigration law in a way “that does justice to our diverse society.” It would bring citizenship laws in Germany on par with its other western European peers like Sweden and France, with a much higher naturalisation rate. The passed legislation must be approved by the Council of States and signed by Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany's President to become a law.
What does the new bill entail and why?
Faeser described the legislation as an effort to lure in more skilled labour into Germany due to dire shortages. According to a report by the German Economic Institute, due to shortage of skilled workers, about 630,000 vacant jobs were unfilled in 2022. The new legislation will grant the children born to individuals living in Germany for more than five years automatic citizenship and allow immigrants above the age of 67 to take an oral test instead of a written one to test their proficiency of the German language. However, those individuals who have a history of committing racism, antisemitism and other such offences will be denied such privileges, so will those completely dependent on the support of the German state. The ban on dual citizenship has been lifted, which, so far, only enables select cases to use the provision. EU citizens, Swiss nationals, citizens of states that do not allow the renunciation of citizenship, refugees with the threat of persecution in their home country, children of parents with two citizenships– one of which is German, and Israelis, are the only cases where dual citizenship would be granted.
Why are conservative and far-right parties against it?
Deutsche Welle noted that the centre-right leaning Christian Democratic Union (CDU) has opposed the coalition government’s effort at changing German immigration laws, implying the German citizenship to be treated carefully. Others in opposition have noted that the lowering of standards for naturalisation will make integration into German society difficult. The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) claim that such laws would reduce incentives for non-Germans to integrate into mainstream society. Right-wing parties believe that such a law would devalue the German passport. Germany has around three million people of Turkish heritage, which is one of the major sect of immigrants. Out of this, almost half of those still hold a Turkish passport. Alexander Throm, a conservative legislator, warned the coalition government that if their intention was gaining new votes, most Turks in Germany vote for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), which would bring a foreign conflict into German society. 
What is the government response?
Olaf Scholz, Germany’s Chancellor welcomed all those foreigners who have spent years in Germany and abided by its law as potential citizens of the country. During a time when most European states are closing down their borders to immigrants, with France tightening its rules on citizenship, Germany is taking the opposite route to provide a haven for skilled workers, much like the US and Canada, as Faeser stated. Germany’s naturalisation bill passed just after another law made easier deportation of foreigners possible. The government, amid pressure from the far-right, is balancing its priorities on immigration through stringent laws for illegal immigrants and attractive ones for foreigners who could fill up the vacant jobs. Those with no cause to remain in Germany can now be easily deported, with police given access to enter rooms of potential deportees. According to Faeser, this balance of laws is an attempt by the government to ensure that “immigration is accepted by society and integration works.”

Guy Chazan, “Germany eases rules for foreigners seeking citizenship”, Financial Times, 19 January 2024
Ben Knight, “
Germany reforms citizenship law”, Deutsche Welle, 19 January 2024
German parliament approves easing rules to get citizenship, dropping restrictions on dual passports”, Euronews, 19 January 2024
Christopher F. Schuetze, “
German Lawmakers Agree to Ease Path to Citizenship”, The New York Times, 19 January 2024
Thomas Escritt, “
Labour-hungry Germany eases citizenship path despite migration rows”, Reuters, 19 January 2024

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