German coalition partner seeks relaxation of dual citizenship laws

Call by Free Democrats likely to put party on collision course with conservative wing of Merkel’s party

Chancellor Angela Merkel at a meeting of the liberal Free Democratic Party, which is seeking a relaxation of the dual citizenship rules. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Chancellor Angela Merkel at a meeting of the liberal Free Democratic Party, which is seeking a relaxation of the dual citizenship rules. Photograph: Thomas Peter/Reuters

Sat, Mar 30, 2013, 06:02


Germany’s junior coalition partner, the Free Democrats (FDP), has called for an end to restrictions on dual citizenship for children of non-EU citizens.

The move is likely to put the party on a collision course with the conservative wing of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats (CDU). In 1999, during an overhaul of citizenship laws, the CDU launched a successful campaign against dual citizenship for all.

The resulting compromise gives children of non-EU citizens born in Germany after 1990 dual citizenship until their 23rd birthday.

The first cohort, largely Germans of Turkish origin, is now facing a choice. If they do nothing, they lose their German passport. Federal justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberg said the liberal FDP favoured “openness and tolerance, which includes dual citizenship”.

For 150 years citizenship laws in Germany were based on jus sanguinis or “right of blood”, you were either born German to German parents or you were not. In 1998 the SPD-Green coalition supplemented this with the right of citizenship based on place of birth, a gesture to the large Turkish community shut out from becoming German citizens.

The CDU, then in opposition, collected five million signatures against the plan. After emotive demonstrations that turned into riots, the citizenship was watered down. Now citizens of EU countries are entitled to hold an additional passport as well as a German one.

Last month Berlin’s Turkish community presented a 100,000-signature petition demanding reform, something SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel has promised if his party is elected in September.