Germany’s parliament approves easing citizenship laws

Legislation allows people to become eligible for citizenship after five years and opens up possibility of dual nationalities.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz
The legislation was put forward by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s socially liberal coalition [Nadja Wohlleben/Reuters]

German lawmakers have approved legislation to ease the rules on gaining citizenship and end a ban on holding dual citizenship.

The bill, put forward by centre-left Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s socially liberal coalition, passed parliament on Friday by a 382-234 vote with 23 lawmakers abstaining.

The legislation will allow people to become eligible for citizenship after five years in Germany or three in case of “special integration accomplishments”, rather than the eight or six years at present.

German-born children will automatically become citizens if one parent has been a legal resident for five years, down from eight.

Dual nationality, customarily allowed only for citizens of other European Union countries, will be permitted, letting tens of thousands of German-born Turks become voters.

In a video welcoming the citizenship law, Scholz said the legislation was for those who had lived and worked in Germany for “decades”.

“With the new citizenship law, we are saying to all those who have often lived and worked in Germany for decades, who abide by our laws, who are at home here: You belong to Germany,” Scholz said.

The main centre-right opposition bloc criticised the project and argued it would cheapen German citizenship.

People wait to be naturalised as Germans
People who have moved to Germany wait to be naturalised as German citizens during a ceremony at a townhall in Berlin [File: Thomas Peter/Reuters]

“Two passports is the most normal thing in the world in 2024 and has long been reality in most countries,” said Social Democratic legislator Reem Alabali-Radovan.

“We, the 20 million people of migrant backgrounds, we are staying here. This country belongs to us all, and we won’t let it be taken away,” she added of the legislation, which President Frank-Walter Steinmeier must sign for it to become law.

The citizenship overhaul was one of a series of social reforms Scholz’s coalition agreed to undertake when it took office in 2021.

Germany previously had one of the world’s most restrictive naturalisation laws with citizenship available only to people who could show German ancestors.

But progressives have long demanded a citizenship law that acknowledges that Germany has been ethnically diverse and multicultural since the arrival of guest workers from Italy and Turkey to ease labour shortages in the 1960s.

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), a target of protests after senior members were caught discussing plans to deport “unassimilated” German citizens, opposed the law and, along with opposition conservatives, warned against “devaluing” the German passport and importing division.

“You want to create new votes for yourselves with this law,” conservative legislator Alexander Throm told coalition politicians. “But careful: Most [Turks] who live here vote for AKP [Turkey’s ruling party] and [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan. … You’re bringing the conflict to us.”

But surveys have shown that German Turks, many of whom are of ethnic Kurdish or Arab backgrounds, vote for the full range of Turkish parties, none of which runs in German elections.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies