Berlin government wants to speed up German citizenship process

Berlin's returning SPD, Greens and Left government has laid out plans to grant more than double the current number of citizenships per year.

Two men recieve German citizenship documents in Berlin
Two men recieve their German citizenship documents in the Berlin district of Neukölln. Photo: picture-alliance/ dpa/dpaweb | Miguel Villagran

In their next term, the coalition plans to ramp up the number of citizenships granted to 20,000 per year – a significant jump from the current annual figure of 7,000.

To achieve the new annual targets, the parties say they will make the process of gaining citizenship both quicker and more digital for applicants.

Announcing the plans on Monday, the Social Democrat’s state party leader Franziska Giffey revealed that around 400,000 permanent residents of Berlin currently meet the conditions for obtaining German citizenship.

However, many face long waits due to the current speed of processing applications, which often varies depending on the district.

Giffey also hinted at Monday’s press conference that the next administration could also transfer responsibility for granting citizenships from the borough to the city level – though this has not yet been confirmed.

Such a move would help standardise waiting times for citizenship applications regardless of where people live within the city.

“We want a functioning city for everyone who lives here,” said Bettina Jarasch, state party leader of the Greens. “That also applies to those who don’t yet have a German passport, and those who have immigrated here.”

The news of the citizenship targets in Berlin comes as Germany’s likely next government thrashes out a coalition agreement that could see them liberalise citizenship and naturalisation law.

If coalition talks between the SPD, Greens and FDP succeed, the residency requirements for citizenship could be shortened in Germany – a change that could see a greater number of people become eligible for citizenship in the coming years.

In addition, the parties have laid out initial plans for ending the ban on dual citizenship.

READ ALSO: What Germany’s coalition plans mean for immigration and citizenship

Migration advisory council

In the course of their next term, the Berlin coalition also plans to set up a new council that will tasked with advising the government on the potential room for manoeuvre in German immigration law and migrants’ right of residence.

They also plan to agree a quota for accepting refugees in need of special protection, such as mothers with children. This number would be in the “low three-digit range”, according to Giffey.

Following the state elections on September 26th, the SPD, Left and Green parties have been in talks to form another so-called red-red-green coaliton, named after each of the parties’ colours.

On Friday, they will be thrashing out a shared policy on the hotly debated topic of affordable housing, the parties also revealed.

READ ALSO: Berlin’s super election day: What does it mean for the city’s housing shortage?

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Green ministers outshine Scholz as stars of German government

Eclipsed by two Green party ministers over his response to the war in Ukraine, Chancellor Olaf Scholz is battling to wrest back public approval - starting with a speech to parliament on Thursday.

Green ministers outshine Scholz as stars of German government

Scholz, whose Social Democrats (SPD) are in power with the Greens and the liberal FDP, has faced a barrage of criticism over his perceived weak response to the war, including his hesitancy over sending heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Green party Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Economy Minister Robert Habeck have impressed with their more vocal approach, topping a recent survey of the country’s most popular politicians.

Scholz’s party suffered a crushing defeat in a key regional election at the weekend, losing to the conservative CDU with its worst-ever result in Germany’s most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

The Greens, meanwhile, almost tripled their score compared with five years ago to finish in third place and look almost certain to be part of the next regional government.

READ ALSO: Why the Greens are the real winners of Germany’s state elections

Der Spiegel magazine called the result a “personal defeat” for Scholz after he was heavily involved in the election campaign, appearing on posters and at rallies.

Already famous for his lack of charisma before he became chancellor, Scholz now appears to be paying the price for dragging his feet in dealing with Moscow over fears of escalating the crisis.

In a bid to win back the public, Scholz has in recent days given lengthy television interviews.

On Thursday, he will be explaining his policy to lawmakers ahead of the EU summit at the end of May.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (m) with ministers (l-r) Svenja Schulze, Annalena Baerbock, Robert Habeck, Cem Özdemir and Christine Lambrecht at a meeting in May 2022.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (m) with ministers (l-r) Svenja Schulze, Annalena Baerbock, Robert Habeck, Cem Özdemir and Christine Lambrecht at a meeting in May 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Sitting tight

In a devastating reading of Scholz’s outings so far, the weekly Focus assessed that “his language is poor, his facial expressions monotone and his body language too understated.”

According to Der Spiegel, the chancellor’s communications strategy seems to revolve around one mantra: “Repeat, repeat, repeat.”

Other media have accused him of stubbornly sticking to the same plan and ignoring what is going on around him.

“His party is plummeting, but the chancellor feels that he has done everything right… Doubts and questions rain down on him, but Olaf simply sits tight,” said Der Spiegel.

Scholz’s spokesman Steffen Hebestreit has defended the chancellor, suggesting that the public value his calm demeanour and would find it “inauthentic” if he tried to turn himself into Barack Obama.

READ ALSO: How war in Ukraine has sparked a historic shift in Germany

But for political scientist Ursula Münch, Scholz does not come across as calm and measured but rather “imprecise” compared with his colleagues from the Green party.

Scholz has also not been helped by the fact that Defence Minister and fellow SPD politician Christine Lambrecht is currently caught up in a storm of criticism for allowing her son to accompany her on a government helicopter on their way to a family vacation.

‘Strong moral underpinning’

Baerbock, meanwhile, has turned around her public image after a series of blunders during the 2021 election campaign, coming across as clearer and more decisive than Scholz in her response to the Ukraine crisis.=

The 41-year-old former trampolinist has become the face of Germany at international summits, from the G7 to NATO, and in early May became the first German minister to visit Kyiv.

Habeck, meanwhile, has impressed with his dedication to weaning Germany off Russian energy.

And their meteoric rise is all the more surprising given the Green party’s traditional positioning as a pacifist party opposed to sending weapons to conflict zones.

For the first time in their 42-year history, according to Der Spiegel, the Greens are being judged not on “expectations and promises” but on their performance in government.

“The strong moral underpinning of the Greens’ policies and the fact they openly struggle with their own principles comes across as approachable and therefore very credible,” according to Münch.

“Of course, this increases their clout compared with the chancellor.”

She therefore predicts an “increase in tensions” between the Greens, the SPD and the FDP, with life not expected to get easier for Scholz any time soon.

By Mathieu FOULKES