Dual Citizenship Demands Have Merkel on Defensive

German politicians are once again arguing over dual citizenship.

German politicians are once again arguing over dual citizenship.


Hardly a campaign season goes by in Germany without at least one bout of hand-wringing over the twin issues of immigration and integration. And this year, as comments on Monday and Tuesday have shown, is shaping up to be no different. Suddenly everyone is talking about the country's tortured approach to dual-citizenship -- and whether that approach should be changed to allow people to hold two passports.

Most parties, it would seem, are in favor of this change. Both the Social Democrats and the Greens have gone on record as saying they would change current rules were they to be elected in the fall. Uncomfortably for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, their junior coalition partner, the Free Democrats (FDP), have also followed suit. "Integration can also be promoted via dual-citizenship as the many cases of well-integrated citizens with two passports have shown," Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a senior member of the FDP, told SPIEGEL ONLINE on Monday.

Currently, the rules require that those born into German citizenship but who also hold a passport from a foreign country outside of the European Union must decide at the age of 23 which citizenship they would like to retain. The law was passed in 2000 by the SPD-Green coalition under the leadership of Chancellor Gerhard Schröder as part of his government's reform of German citizenship laws. In exchange for allowing children of non-German parents to receive citizenship upon birth in some cases, conservatives demanded that holders of dual citizenship be made to choose one or the other once they reached early adulthood.

"This (requirement) must be scrutinized if it is leading to a situation in which people are turning away from Germany," said Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger. Fellow FDP politician Rainer Brüderle agrees, saying in the business daily Handelsblatt on Tuesday that it was time for "ideological disarmament on the question of double citizenship."

That suggestion, however, seems not to have gone over well with Merkel's allies. While her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said merely that the government sees no current need to address the issue, the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's CDU, hauled out the verbal artillary.

"Those who live in a country and want to stay there must clearly commit to that country and take on its citizenship," said a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, led by CSU member Hans-Peter Friedrich.

His party colleague, CSU General Secretary Alexander Dobrindt, went even further. "We say a clear no to double citizenship. German citizenship is not a junk item to be hawked cheaply," he said. "Those who want to become German must unconditionally commit to our country and our fundamental order; there is no room for a back door."

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