Olaf Scholz and Nancy Faeser want to make it easier for foreigners to become Germans. The Union says the government is “selling” the German passport. The debate becomes toxic. Here are the facts on the subject.
Before we come to the political debate about naturalizations: Who is actually naturalized in Germany? According to the Federal Statistical Office, around four times as many new Germans come from non-European countries as from European countries. Most of them come from Syria and Turkey.
The number of naturalizations is rising sharply because more and more Syrians are naturalizing. Last year it was one in five. If this trend continues, almost 100,000 more German citizens of Syrian descent will be living in Germany by the end of 2022.
Second place for naturalisations belongs to the Turks, although the number of Turkish naturalisations has fallen sharply. 20 years ago, more than 60,000 Turks were naturalized in Germany, last year it was 12,000. Skeptics see this as a sign of increasing isolation from Turks in Germany, especially the younger generation.
In any case, you can see from the high numbers how Germany is changing – whether Germanness is changing is a controversial issue. Because the prerequisite for naturalization is integration, which includes at least the German language – plus being able to stand on your own two feet financially. So far, naturalization comes at the end of integration.
The traffic light coalition now wants to change this. It can best be compared with the citizens’ allowance that has just been decided: just as the government has shifted the relationship between demanding and promoting, it now wants to shift the relationship between integration and naturalization. Naturalizations should come faster, after five years instead of eight, with good integration after three years instead of six.
Syrians in particular will benefit from Angela Merkel’s “welcome culture” from the six-year rule. And because integration is a prerequisite for naturalization, it can be said that Germany has achieved what Merkel promised when she said: “We can do it.”
But there is also the other side of “2015”: Seven years after the great trek west, two-thirds of Syrians are still stuck in long-term unemployment, i.e. on Hartz IV, soon to receive citizen benefits. So Germany has not managed to integrate them, because integration always means: integration into the labor market.
Those two-thirds of Syrians in Hartz IV will get a good ten percent or 50 euros more from January, like all recipients of citizen income. More than 40 percent of those who receive “support” are foreigners. This makes it clear: a significant proportion of people who have never paid into the system benefit from the deposits of others. It is unequal treatment, which is also why the debate about citizen income was so poisonous.
This will hardly change with naturalization. In principle, that is correct, dispute is fundamentally part of democracy. And who can become German here is a very important question. And one that has its own pitfalls. Many of the Moroccans who rioted in Belgium yesterday after their football team won may have Belgian passports. will say:
No naturalization without integration. But naturalization is no guarantee of integration either – especially not when it comes to the children of people who have been naturalized early. They can also disintegrate again – or become more religious, which in relation to most people means: more Islamic and thus: more foreign to culture. A phenomenon that is in the constitutional protection report.
The front of the debate is the same as with citizen income, to put it simply: the traffic light parties, led by the Chancellor, talk about trust and respect. The Union parties, led by Friedrich Merz and Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann, are wary of skepticism and caution and “pull factors”, i.e. incentives for further illegal immigration. In fact, if a migrant can become a German after a shorter time than before, that is the opposite of a policy of deterrence.
The traffic light coalition is planning a fundamental change, which should exacerbate the discussion again. The naturalization law that has been in force up to now, and which was recently tightened again by the grand coalition of the Union and the SPD, assumes that dual citizenship is fundamentally impossible. The new naturalization law, the draft of which has been completed by Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, is based on the fundamental possibility of having two nationalities.
What less integration would mean: Anyone who is allowed to keep their Syrian or Turkish or Afghan passport, even if they become German, has less incentive to take being German as seriously as they do being German.
But that’s not all: Dual nationals are privileged in a certain way. They have more rights than the “original” residents with only one passport. In the case of Syrians and Turks, this may be a purely theoretical possibility, but politics must also deal with the feeling of being disadvantaged. Few things are as emotional as justice debates.
Especially since there is an opportunity for the AfD. One of the constant themes, which can be heard in many Bundestag debates, is the thesis that the left-wing coalition cares more about foreigners than nationals. For this and other reasons, one of the coalition partners, the FDP, is in a quandary.
Business, commonly known as the FDP “clients”, supports every step toward integration, including naturalizations, although dual passports are irrelevant for industry. They are concerned with labor, not nationality. But for many bourgeois voters, immigration and the subsequent naturalization are just as much a thorn in their side as citizen income, which is granted free of charge, which is a violation of the liberal principle: performance must be worthwhile. The dilemma becomes clear in a tweet from the Federal Minister of Justice.
Marco Buschmann: “Humanitarian immigration and regular immigration lead to Germany. When it comes to immigration, all helping hands are welcome in the labor market, but no one who just wants to hold a hand in the welfare system. This also applies to citizenship.”
Buschmann is constitutional minister, which makes his statement important. Buschmann is now being attacked from the right because he speaks of “humanitarian immigration”. And not from: illegal immigration. Illegal because migrants were already safe in other European countries before they came to Germany.
And from the left, the liberals are accused of not making a connection between immigration into social systems – which the left denies anyway – and citizenship rights.
But there is this connection: as a long-term unemployed person, you can also make a living for yourself and your family from the basic income. And if you live in Germany for six years without a rape, you can also have yourself made German. At least that is the fear of many in the Union.
For the coalition, the question now is to what extent the Federal Minister of Justice will intervene in the Federal Minister of the Interior’s draft law. However, the matter will end up in the mediation committee anyway, just like the citizens’ income. The federal states governed by the Union will certainly not wave the Faeser draft through. Bavaria’s Minister of the Interior, Joachim Herrmann, has already made that clear.
The Chancellor is right about one thing, and Olaf Scholz will do politics with that, he has already started with it. Naturalization is often a moving thing, as everyone who has ever been there has probably experienced that. People, some of whom have lived in Germany for a long time, are presented with a certificate of naturalization by the mayor in the town hall in the face of the German flag – which means that they are now Germans. Many of them, men often in suits, women in their best dresses, tell heart-warming stories at this “state act”. Tears of relief often flow.
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