Why are Germany’s planned citizenship reforms coming under fire?

The Local Germany
The Local Germany - [email protected]
Why are Germany’s planned citizenship reforms coming under fire?
A certificate of naturalization from the Federal Republic of Germany lies on a table. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Fernando Gutierrez-Juarez

A new draft law to reform German citizenship rules was presented on Friday. But the proposed changes are already garnering criticism – from both within and outside the coalition government.


In their coalition agreement, the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) agreed to make it easier for foreigners in Germany to obtain German citizenship. Last week, initial details of the planned changes were revealed and have already triggered a controversial debate. 


Under the proposed changes, it will be possible to obtain citizenship after just five years of residence in Germany - as opposed to the current eight years. In the case of "special integration achievements", this should even be possible after just three years.

The government is also looking to dispense with the German-language requirements for people from the Turkish guest worker generation who are 67 years of age or older and to grant automatic citizenship to children born in Germany whose foreign parents have been in the country for five years.

READ ALSO: Germany to ease citizenship rules for children of foreign parents

'Must be handled with care'

The Christian Democratic Union (CDU/CSU) - the main opposition party in the German parliament - has however voiced sharp criticism of the plans.

Speaking on public broadcaster ARD's "Report from Berlin" programme on Sunday, CDU leader Friedrich Merz expressed concern about the reforms leading to a devaluation of the German passport.

"German citizenship is something very valuable, and it must be handled with care," Merz said. 

He also raised concerns that relaxed citizenship laws could result in more people using the German benefits system.  

"What we must prevent is immigration into the social systems, and if that is the goal of the coalition, then, of course, we will not agree to it," Merz said. 

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

But criticism of Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser's (SPD) plans for accelerated naturalisation is not only coming not only from the opposition but also from coalition partner, the FDP.

Despite being a signatory to the coalition agreement that included in it a modernised citizenship law, the FDP is now voicing opposition to the timing of the reforms.

FDP Secretary General Bijan Djir-Sarai told the Rheinische Post that "now is not the time to simplify citizenship law," as there has been "no progress" in combating illegal migration.

He also argued that the granting of citizenship should be the result of successful integration into German society and not "at the beginning of the integration process."

"There will be no devaluation of German citizenship with the FDP," Djir-Sarai said.

Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) defended the planned reforms in a guest article for the Tagesspiegel newspaper, saying the reform was long overdue and "a great opportunity to strengthen our social cohesion."

She warned against resentment in the discussion about citizenship law and wrote that many people were "deeply hurt" by the fact that the debates in the past had often been characterized by "cheap propaganda."


To express criticism - Kritik äußern/Kritik üben

Devaluation - (die) Abwertung

To integrate - To integrate

Cheap propaganda - (die) Stimmungsmache

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also