Kenan Kolat, chairman of the Turkish Community in Germany said on Tuesday he was fundamentally opposed to a new citizenship test that will be introduced in September.
“We don’t find the test a good idea at all,” he told Cologne-based daily Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger.
The German government said last month it was introducing the test as an additional step to screening candidates applying for a German passport. In total, prospective Germans will have to tackle 33 questions on politics and democracy, history and responsibility and man and society — 17 of which they must answer correctly.
Kolat said the 310 formulaic multiple-choice questions published by the interior ministry tested not only knowledge of Germany but “to some extent also attitudes.” He suggested putting the questions to Germans at information stands in Berlin. “It would be interesting to see how that goes off,” he said.
Kolat’s concerns are echoed by several opposition politicians who say the citizenship test poses new obstacles for immigrants wishing to apply for naturalization.
“We don’t need new hurdles but rather a liberalization of the naturalization process by introducing dual citizenship,” said Claudia Roth, head of the Green Party.
At 2.3 million, Turks make up the largest group of immigrants in Germany, and have long pushed for the right to keep both Turkish and German passports. Around 340,000 people over 18 will soon face the tough decision of choosing between German or Turkish citizenship, Kolat warned, adding that many young Turkish-Germans who had grown up in Germany continued to have a strong Turkish identity.
In 2000, Germany reformed its citizenship laws which had previously only recognized the principle of nationality by blood. The reform now allows foreigners who have lived in Germany for eight years to apply for naturalization. But the original plan to allow their children born in Germany to automatically become German failed in the face of fierce opposition by conservative parties. As a compromise, it was decided that naturalized children would have to decide at the age of 18 whether they wanted to keep their German passport or their foreign one.
Some point out that being forced to choose between nationalities could mean a conflict of identity and loyalties.
“To feel like a Berliner, an Istanbul resident, a Turk – these aren’t contradictions,“ said Serdar Yazar, chairman of the Turkish Student Organization, adding that diverse identities are a reality.
Kerim Arpat, chairman of the European Network of Turkish Students, Graduates and Academics (EATA) said the government’s policies had led to a “two-class society” in which EU citizens and Turkish-Germans from mixed marriages allowed to hold dual citizenship, but Turks born in Germany are only allowed to have one passport.
“This is not just about a piece of plastic,” said Arpat.