German government seeks to ease naturalization rules

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s socially liberal government is pushing ahead with plans to ease rules for obtaining citizenship in the European Union’s most populous country, a move that is beset by opposition conservative.

Chancellor OIaf Scholz said in a video message on Saturday that Germany has long since become « the land of hope » for many, and it’s a good thing when people who have put down roots in the country decide to take the citizenship.

“Germany needs better rules for the naturalization of all these great women and men,” Scholz said.

The overhaul of citizenship rules is part of a series of modernization reforms that the three-party coalition of Scholz’s center-left Social Democrats, Green Environmentalists and pro-business Free Democrats agreed to tackle when it entered in office last December. The Home Office said on Friday the bill was « almost ready ».

Last year’s coalition agreement provides for people to be eligible for German citizenship after five years, or three in the event of « special integration achievements », instead of the current eight or six years. Children born in Germany would automatically become citizens if one of the parents had been a legal resident for five years.

The government also wants to remove restrictions on dual nationality. In principle, most people from countries other than members of the European Union and Switzerland must currently renounce their previous citizenship when obtaining German citizenship, although there are some exemptions.

Home Secretary Nancy Faeser argued that reducing the waiting time to be eligible for citizenship is « an incentive for integration ».

The goal is to reflect reality, she said on Friday. « We are a diverse and modern immigration country, and I think legislation needs to reflect that. »

Official statistics show that around 131,600 people took German citizenship last year, a quarter of whom are citizens of other EU countries. This number was 20% higher than the previous year, in part because a growing number of Syrians have become naturalized. The total population of Germany is approximately 84 million.

The main centre-right opposition bloc, the Union, rejects plans to liberalize naturalization laws.

« Selling German citizenship cheaply does not encourage integration – it aims for the exact opposite and will trigger additional ‘pull effects’ for illegal migration, » conservative lawmaker Alexander Dobrindt said in Saturday’s edition. of the daily Bild.

« Five years is a very, very short time » for people to be eligible for citizenship, Union chief whip Thorsten Frei told ZDF television.

Among other liberalization plans, the government removed from the German penal code the ban on doctors “advertising” abortion services. He has lowered the minimum age to vote in European Parliament elections from 18 to 16 and wants to do the same for national elections.

He also wants to repeal 40-year-old legislation that requires trans people to undergo a psychological evaluation and court order before officially changing their sex, and replace it with a new « self-determination law. » And it aims to decriminalize the possession of limited amounts of cannabis and allow its sale to adults for recreational purposes in a controlled market.

Some of the plans could run into trouble in the upper house of parliament, which represents Germany’s 16 state governments and where Scholz’s coalition does not control a majority. He had to water down the elements of an overhaul of unemployment benefits for it to pass this week.

Geir Moulson, Associated Press


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