Criticism for border shake-up proposal

German and French plans to reclaim control of their borders have been condemned by German politicians as "right-wing populist rhetoric". The move comes ahead of Sunday's first round vote in the French Presidential elections, in which President Nicolas Sarkozy has been trailing in the polls.

Criticism for border shake-up proposal
Photo: DPA

“The French President is attempting to improve his hopeless situation with right-wing populist rhetoric,” Green party chairwoman Claudia Roth told the Hamburger Abendblatt on Saturday.

Critics say the proposal to radically reform the Schengen agreement – which abolished frontier controls in 1995 – would be a retrograde step for Europe. Under the agreement immigrants to Europe are allowed to move freely between states once inside the Schengen area without having to show identification.

“A Europe without border installations and tollgates was the dream of all those who began the European unification process,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told Focus magazine on Saturday. “We can’t jeopardize that now and especially not for small, tactical electoral gains.”

In a joint letter sent this week to the European Union’s Danish chair, French and German Interior Ministers Claude Guéant and Hans-Peter Friedrich said that where governments within the area fail to meet obligations to manage external frontiers partners should have “the possibility, as a last resort, to reintroduce internal frontiers for a period not greater than 30 days.”

Head of the German police union GdP told the Hamburger Abendblatt on Saturday he doubts this would be workable, as after the Schengen agreement came into force a large number of Germany’s 10,000 border officials were deployed elsewhere.

But the proposal probably won’t get that far as it seems unlikely that it will find support on a European level.

President of the EU Parliament Martin Schluz has rejected the idea, which would see member states clawing back some control over their own borders.

“The community law of the union can’t be annulled by a bilateral announcement of two Interior Ministers,” he told the Passauer Neuen Presse on Saturday.

Schultz told the paper the “strange” proposal would not find majority support in the EU Council or in the EU Parliament.


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German parliament to hold urgent debate on citizenship

Politicians will gather in the Bundestag on Thursday afternoon for an urgent session on Germany's planned changes to citizenship law.

German parliament to hold urgent debate on citizenship

According to information on the Bundestag website, the urgent discussion was scheduled on the request of the opposition CDU party, who have been fiercely critical of the planned reforms in recent days.

The debate, which is scheduled to start at 2:50pm and last an hour, will see MPs air their views on the government’s planned changes to citizenship law.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) is currently in the process of drafting a bill that will simplify and speed up the naturalisation process in Germany, which she said this week is “as good as done”.  

The law will end a ban on dual nationality for non-EU citizens, meaning people from places like India, the USA and the UK can naturalise as Germans without losing their current citizenship – or citizenships. 

It also foresees a dramatic reduction in the amount of time it takes to become eligible for German citizenship.

In future, people would be able to naturalise after five years of residence in the country rather than the current eight, while people who speak good German or fulfil other integration criteria could naturalise after three years rather than six.

Additionally, the Interior Ministry wants to grant automatic German citizenship to the children of foreign parents – provided their parents have been in the country at least five years – and remove language requirements for members of the guest-worker generation who want to become German. 


‘We don’t need reform’

High-profile politicians from the CDU have slammed the government’s plans to ease citizenship rules, with parliamentary leader Thorsten Frei describing the move as an attempt to “sell-off” German passports as a “junk commodity”.

“We don’t need reform,” Frei told public broadcaster ZDF. “There would no majority whatsoever in any party’s supporters for this change.”

Earlier this week, CDU leader Friedrich Merz had argued that expediting the naturalisation process would damage integration and allow people to immigrate into the benefits system more easily. 

“The CDU will not close its mind to a further modernisation of immigration law and the citizenship law of the Federal Republic of Germany,” Merz told a meeting of CDU and CSU MPs in Berlin on Tuesday.

“However, we also attach importance to the fact that the granting of citizenship takes place at the end of an integration process and not at the beginning of it.” 

The CDU and CSU have previously been vocal opponents of permitting dual nationality, arguing that holding more than one citizenship would prevent people from fully integrating into German life. 

Nevertheless, it remains unclear if the opposition will be able to block the legislation in any meaningful way.

If there aren’t any substantial changes to the core of the citizenship bill when the amendments are made, the Interior Ministry believes it won’t need to be put to a vote in the Bundesrat – the upper house where the CDU and CSU hold a majority.

Instead, the parties of the traffic-light coalition – the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) – would simply be able to vote it through in the Bundestag. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Could Germany’s conservatives block dual citizenship?