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1.11.2009 | Von:
Daniel Naujoks

The discourse on ethnic and political boundary-making in Germany

Discussions on the permissibility of dual citizenship play a special role in social discourse. In addition to technical and practical considerations, this concerns ideas of citizenship and naturalisation as ethnic and political boundary-making, as well as attitudes within a country towards permanent residents of a different origin their integration in the social system. [1]
Schüler an einer süddeutschen Realschule.  (© AP)

Two recent developments have given the impetus to revisit this topic. Firstly, since January 2008 the first consequences of what is known as the option model have become apparent. Although the reformed German nationality law of 2000 refrained from generally acknowledging dual citizenship, it did introduce a limited ius soli regulation (birthright citizenship). According to this, children born in Germany to foreign parents are entitled by their birth to a German passport, even if they possess another citizenship. [2] Only when they obtain the age of majority, but at the latest upon reaching 23 years of age, must they decide on one of the two citizenships (Optionspflicht). Transitional arrangements meant that children born in Germany but not yet ten years old in January 2000 could be naturalised without giving up their parents' citizenship in order to do so. [3] Since January 2008, however, the first of these young adults have been able to choose between their two citizenships, and from January 2013 they must do so.

Secondly, in 2007 it was recognized that EU citizens could have multiple nationality and thus from 2007 any EU citizen naturalised in Germany may retain his or her former nationality. [4]

Naturalisations with and without accepting dual citizenshipNaturalisations with and without accepting dual citizenship Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de (bpb)
Moreover, cases of multiple citizenship are not limited to individual instances in Germany. Apart from the circumstances listed above and cases where children of binational parents are granted citizenship of both countries on the basis of descent [5], of the more than 620 000 people naturalised between 2003 and 2007, half were allowed to retain their previous citizenship – and as the figure shows, the tendency is rising. A mere 18 % of new dual nationals come from an EU country, while the others originate from so-called third countries. This retention of former nationality is legally permissible if the country of origin does not permit opting out or if there are other unreasonable conditions such as high release fees.

These developments, and the reservations against accepting dual citizenship which exist as a matter of principle in any case, give rise to the discussion in this policy brief of the pros and cons of this concept and its effects. The first part of this policy brief introduces and comments on classic objections to dual citizenship before changing focus in the second and third parts to concentrate on the actual foundations of the frequent criticism associated with key aspects of naturalisation and the definition of society.


My thanks to Dietrich Thränhardt, Uwe Hunger and the editing team of focus Migration for their valuable comments on an earlier draft of this policy brief. Much of the paper is based on Naujoks (2008).In accordance with the bulk of the economic, sociological and legal literature on this topic, we will use the terms "nationality" and "citizenship" synonymously. However, it may be worth noting that generally the term "citizenship" is preferable since "nationality" is sometimes understood as a sociological concept, identifying the bonds between an individual and a nation, not a state.
For non-EU citizens, however, this only applies if at least one parent has already had his or her domicile in Germany for at least 8 years (Section 4, para. 3 German Citizenship Act).
In 93% of cases the previous nationality was kept upon acquiring German citizenship (naturalisation statistics, naturalisations in accordance with Section 40, lit. b) German Citizenship Act).
The law of the country of origin may well still oppose dual citizenship, as is the case in Austria and Belgium.
According to the 2005 microcensus, in Germany there are 1.3 million marriages where only one spouse possesses German nationality.



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