German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called for reforms to the country’s citizenship rules in a video message on Saturday.
Scholz’s coalition government – comprising his centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), the environmentalist Green Party and the neoliberal Free Democrats (FDP) – made easing citizenship rules one of the priorities of their coalition agreement.
The plans met resistance from the conservative opposition.
What did Scholz say?
In his weekly video message, Scholz emphasized the integral role immigrants have played in rebuilding and strengthening Germany.
“Germany has become a land of hope for many,” said the chancellor. “The women and men and sometimes children who came to Germany contributed enormously to make 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 their roots in Germany. He recalled the “very moving” naturalization ceremonies he supervised in his previous role as mayor of Hamburg.
“And that is why it is a good thing if those who have lived 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 stressed.
What are the proposed changes?
The chancellors’ remarks come a day after the interior ministry said the draft bill on citizenship process reform was “almost 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 minimum of eight years.
Naturalization can also become available to people after living in Germany for only three years if applicants complete “special integration measures”. What those measures entail was not further explained in the reports.
The draft law could also potentially make it easier for more immigrants in Germany to hold dual citizenship. Currently, dual nationality status is only allowed for people from Switzerland or fellow citizens of the European Union.
Interior Secretary Nancy Faeser said on Friday that reducing the waiting period for citizenship is “an incentive for integration” and that the reforms should reflect reality.
“We are a diverse, modern immigration country and I think the legislation should reflect that,” she said.
Backlash from conservatives
The proposed reforms have been sharply criticized by the conservative CDU/CSU bloc, who say the changes may go too far.
“Selling German citizenship cheaply does not encourage integration – it aims at the exact opposite and will create additional ‘pull effects’ for illegal migration,” senior CDU legislator Alexander Dobrindt told the daily. Image newspaper Saturday.
Citizenship reform plans could potentially face delays in the upper house of Germany’s parliament, the Bundesrat, where Scholz’s coalition lacks a majority.
Germany is the most populous country in the EU, with a population of 84 million people. The latest 2021 government statistics show that 11.8 million of the country’s population are foreign nationals – about 14%.
rs/ar (AP, dpa)
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