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Germany’s Merkel says talks with Taliban must continue to evacuate more people

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday called for a dialogue with the Taliban as the hardline Islamists finalise a new government that will set the tone for their rule in Afghanistan.

Germany's Merkel says talks with Taliban must continue to evacuate more people
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses a joint press conference with the North Rhine-Westphalia's State Premier and Germany's conservative Christian Democratic Union's (CDU) chancellor candidate after visiting flood-hit regions in Hagen, North Rhine-Westphalia, western Germany on September 5th, 2021. Bernd Lauter / AFP

“We simply have to talk to the Taliban about how we can get people who have worked for Germany out of the country and bring them to safety,” Merkel told a press conference in North Rhine-Westphalia state.

“They are the ones we have to talk to now. We want to get people out of the country who have worked for German development organisations in particular and who now feel threatened,” Merkel said.

The Taliban swooped into power in Afghanistan three weeks ago, prompting a hurried effort by Western states to evacuate their citizens and Afghans who had worked for their armies and aid organisations.

Facing the challenge of morphing from insurgents to rulers, the Taliban appear determined to snuff out fighting in the Panjshir valley before announcing who will lead the country in the aftermath of last week’s US troop withdrawal.

Afghanistan’s new rulers have promised a more “inclusive” government that represents Afghanistan’s complex ethnic make-up — though women are unlikely to be included at the top levels.

While the West has adopted a wait-and-see approach to the group, there are some signs of engagement with the new leaders gathering pace.

Earlier on Sunday, Taliban chief spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid had told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that the Taliban wanted “strong and official diplomatic relations with Germany”.

The Taliban would also like financial support, humanitarian aid and cooperation in health, agriculture and education from Germany, as well as other countries.

Mujahid also said that Germans were always welcome in Afghanistan.

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CITIZENSHIP

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. 

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‘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?

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