In autumn this year a new German government will be elected. The last months already saw hot-headed discussions in parliament and attempts at denigrating certain parties’ chairmen. Recently just another topic has entered the main stage of election campaigns: The discussions about the policy on “foreigners” in general, and about a possible dual citizenship in particular.
What is the current status?
Since the year 2000 children who are born in Germany by two parents of which one has lived in Germany for at least eight years are given the German citizenship (with the possibility of simultaneously holding a second, that is their parents’ original, citizenship). However, when they turn 18 they have five years time to decide if they want to retain the German nationality – in this case they have to provide proof that they successfully relinquished their second citizenship.
One of many messages that can be inferred from this policy is the premise that you are only supposed to be German if you are willing to be exclusively so. With respect to the so stylised “problem of second generation immigrants” this regulation also expresses the subliminal hope that young people, who in the eyes of the advocates of Germany’s rigid and parochial immigration policy did not integrate, would realise by themselves that they were better-off by not choosing the German citizenship.
While the current opposition parties (comprising, among others, the social democrats and the green party) support the possibility of a dual citizenship, the coalition in power (consisting of Merkel’s conservative party and the liberals) used to adhere to Germany’s practice of only allowing one citizenship. In the face of the oncoming elections and it’s critical results the liberal party has recently tried to prevent its political demise – mostly by distinguishing itself from its conservative coalition partner. Hence it is not surprising that Germany’s liberal Minister of Justice has now announced that she might contemplate the legal establishment of a dual citizenship.
Since the conservative party rejects this proposal for “practical reasons” the liberals thereby widen the growing gulf between the coalition partners. In terms of electoral results various outcomes are possible, ranging from a vanishing liberal and, concomitantly, a fortified conservative party to the latter’s supersedence by a coalition of social democrats and greens (and possibly: liberals).
With regard to nationalism studies it will be interesting to see how this discussion will develop within the next months, if it will become a pivotal topic for the election campaigns, and if it will entail a change of Germany’s perception, and legal definition, of national identity and belonging.