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What’s next for Germany’s landmark citizenship reform?

James Jackson
James Jackson - [email protected]
What’s next for Germany’s landmark citizenship reform?
German passport. Photo: picture alliance / Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa | Rolf Vennenbernd

The much awaited first reading of the citizenship reform had been taken off this week’s parliamentary agenda amid in-fighting in the traffic-light government. So what happens next?


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So what’s next for the bill which would allow millions of internationals in Germany to get citizenship more quickly while retaining their original passports?

The short answer is: we don’t know yet. What we do know is that it’s now unlikely that the law will be passed by April 1st as was originally revealed.

READ MORE: Why has Germany’s citizenship reforms been delayed?

What was the original timeline?

Hakan Demir, a Social Democratic (SPD) MP who has been working on the development of the new law, told the Local in the summer about the then-predicted timeline.

"We will have the first reading in November, and then hopefully the second and third reading of the law in December or January," he said.

"And I think it will come into force - hopefully - on April 1st (2024). This is the track we are working on right now."

But with the first reading of the bill taken off of Germany’s parliamentary agenda this week, and it unclear when it will reappear, those deadlines are unlikely to be met.


Migration has become an increasingly contentious issue in recent months in Germany and senior figures in the right-leaning Free Democrats (FDP) have been making clear that they have political cold feet.

The FDP’s deputy leader Wolfgang Kubicki told Bild newspaper “in the past few weeks we have talked a lot about imported Islamism and anti-Semitism and defined this as a massive problem for German society.”

He warned that with automatic naturalisation at birth in Germany, this problem will not be reduced, but will probably no longer be able to be overcome.”

The Free Democrats (FDP) have taken a harder line on citizenship reform, while in the past the Greens have been more in favour.

The draft law passed by the cabinet to modernise nationality law stipulates, among other things, that all children born in Germany to foreign parents should receive a German passport if at least one parent has lived legally in Germany for more than five years. Currently, the deadline is eight years.


Not the first delay

The traffic light government’s plans to liberalise German citizenship laws were bogged down in Cabinet discussions from January to March, when Social Democrat Interior Minister Nancy Faeser presented the law to the rest of her ministerial colleagues.

When cabinet finally approved the law this summer, many Local readers rejoiced. But was that too early?

It is possible that the bill was just taken off the Tagesordnung (agenda) and will be delayed by a week or two. But we don’t know when yet and neither do our Parliamentary sources. This is likely to be a sign that it is being disputed at party leadership level.

It’s unusual for bills to be amended once they have been approved by cabinet. But it is possible – and pressure has been mounting up due to backlash at pro-Palestine protests, some which have espoused anti-Semitic rhetoric.

Listen: Why is Germany coming down hard on Palestine solidarity protests?

Opposition leader Friedrich Merz of the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) called for the coalition to “stop” their plans, pointing out that it would also make people who have been convicted of criminal offences which carry a sentence of one year in prison able to become citizens – under the current law they can only have been convicted for 9 months.

But migration expert and lecturer in German studies at Kings Alexander Clarkson can offer some respite.

"Every citizenship bill has faced a backlash and led to half-measures that needed to be fixed by the next citizenship bill. It's frustrating but not the shock many portray this to be. It's an entrenched pattern in German migration policy" he told The Local



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