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1.11.2009 | Von:
Daniel Naujoks

What characterises the current debate?

Many analysts study the interests of "states" and their objections to dual citizenship. However, the necessary legal regimes, which recognise or reject the simultaneous possession of multiple citizenships, are not created by "the state" in a "black box mechanism".
Menschen mit Plakaten nehmen am Mittwoch (31.01.2007) vor dem Bundesinnenministerium in Berlin an einer Demonstration der Türkischen Gemeinde in Deutschland teil. Die Teilnehmer der Kundgebung demonstrieren für ein Recht auf doppelte Staatsbürgerschaft.Turkish immigrants in Germany and their families stage a protest at the German federal interior ministry. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Many analysts study the interests of "states" and their objections to dual citizenship.

However, the necessary legal regimes, which recognise or reject the simultaneous possession of multiple citizenships, are not created by "the state" in a "black box mechanism". Rather, there is a multi-layered policy process in which the interplay of different actors and coalitions with a wide variety of values and interests leads to the adoption or non-adoption of a law. In addition, it is tempting in political and social discourse to allow one's personal political convictions to colour the interpretation of data and views and present them less objectively.

Many of the points against dual citizenship discussed above seem less than convincing. The following three hypotheses aim to show why the heart of the discussion is mostly veiled, as are the assumptions on which the discussion is based, and the content of the discussion.

A limited field of discourse

The first hypothesis proposes that the field of discourse on dual citizenship – as on other discussions concerning migration policy – is limited in so far as certain arguments are regarded as essentially illegitimate in the first place and, therefore, outside the permissible frame of discussion. [1] As a result, many of the real arguments against dual citizenship are not brought up, or if so, then only in a veiled form. Arguments relating to matters of loyalty, equality and integration, just like objections emanating from the sphere of international law and double military, tax and legal obligations, are more readily accessible and can be made without the proponent running the risk of appearing undemocratic and xenophobic. It is therefore especially important to scrutinise what lies behind the objections aired against dual citizenship and consider the actual interests and motives.

A prototypical foreigner as the basis for the negative attitude towards dual citizenship

According to the second hypothesis, a certain negative image of the "the foreigner" dominates critics' perception, whereby negative attitudes towards immigrants are mixed up with views of dual citizenship. Here, in particular, the objectively and subjectively perceived composition of migrant flows plays a role.

A certain perception of details from official statistics concerning the origin of migrants, their educational and professional achievements as well as their religious affiliation and unemployment levels [2] means that to many "the immigrant, the religious, the racial and the socio-economic underprivileged 'other', all tend to coincide". [3] This generalised, and inevitably incomplete, image of the prototypical foreigner is often supported by indiscriminate press coverage.

Many objections formulated in a linguistically abstract manner, such as criticism levelled at the incompatibility of differing loyalties and the way this limits integration, are often not meant to be either abstract or general. Rather, they are based on an image of a specifically identifiable person, the supposedly standard type of foreigner. In other words, it is not that critics doubt that people can generally have genuine links to two states. Rather, what they have in mind when they raise this objection is the picture of a group of persons with certain negatively perceived socio-cultural characteristics, who would not be able to do so. Due to limitations in the discourse, as indicated above, this matter is therefore only referred to in vague and general terms.

Exclusion as the main reason for refusing dual citizenship

For practical reasons or reasons of identity, the obligation to renounce their former citizenship may deter immigrants from applying for naturalisation in spite of their already being integrated into Germany. [4] In fact, any ban on multiple citizenship leads to the non-naturalisation of a large group of immigrants and thus to their exclusion from participatory rights in their country of permanent residence.

Acceptance of dual citizenship by naturalisations between 2004 - 2007Acceptance of dual citizenship by naturalisations between 2004 - 2007 Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de (bpb)
The third hypothesis states that for many critics it is not a matter of preventing dual citizenship as such, but of making naturalisation more difficult. [5] Such attempts at exclusion are not directed equally against all people of different origin, but first and foremost against the prototypical example of "the foreigner" described above. As the figure and the Table illustrate, there are large differences in the acceptance of multiple citizenship. The complete recognition of dual citizenship for EU citizens introduced in August 2007 caused no controversy. It can be assumed that the debate would have been a very different matter if the same acceptance were to be extended to Turkish citizens, for whom, for the time being, the ban persists. Thus, in 2007 only 17% of naturalised citizens of Turkish origin were able to retain their former passport. A tendency to exclude certain sections of the population also becomes apparent if we consider the arguments, outlined in the next section, that are levelled against the naturalisation of certain groups of people in discussions on dual citizenship.

Details of naturalisations for different groups of immigrants
Former citizenshipNumber of natural-
Proportion of the total natural-
Average quota of natural-
isations [6]
isations with dual citizen-
Average age at natural-
Average duration of residence at natural-
%in years
Annual Average 2003-2007Annual Average 2005-2007
EU-Member States [7]12.3349,70,686,236,218,4
Former Soviet Union13.35711,12,756,535,89,2
Russian Federation4.1903,52,366,036,79,6
Former Yugoslavia12.86811,01,652,828,716,1
All countries125.544100,01,848,330,515,1
Source: Naturalisations Statistics, Central Register of Foreigners, Federal Statistical Office
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This is also shown by Freeman (1995:884) and Brubaker (1992:906 ff.).
In the Pisa studies, school children of foreign origin were on an average far behind German school children, who were themselves not exceptional. Moreover, according to official statistics, foreigners are twice as severely affected by unemployment (23.6 %) as the overall average of the working population (12.0 %), German Federal Employment Agency (2007:75). In particular, the high proportion of Muslim migrants is regarded as a threat by parts of the population, cf. Casanova (2006) and Green (2005:933, 942 f.).
Casanova (2006:185). Thränhardt (2008:5, 14) also sees a connection between discussions on dual citizenship and the "repeated attitudes of distrust against non-European or non-western immigrant groups, especially those of Muslim belief." [translation by the author].
Firstly, if people lose their nationality they might be excluded from the right to own property or to inherit. Secondly, in such cases migrants may need a visa in order to travel back to their former homeland, and any definite or latent plans to settle there in their old age may be made significantly more difficult. In addition to pragmatic considerations, often identity-related questions make people refrain from giving up their earlier citizenship, since in many cases there is the feeling that by doing so they would betray their roots, cf. Hammar (1985:441); Green (2005:923); Böcker and Thränhardt (2006:124).
Opponents of dual nationality prophesy the dissolution of the nation through "mass naturalisations" and the associated redefinition or "substitution of the state people (Staatsvolk)" (Bandulet (1999)). As Böcker and Thränhardt (2006) show, as early as the 1960s the debate on reducing Turkish migrants put an end to the discussion about dual citizenship.
The quota of naturalisation reflects the proportion between naturalisations and foreign citizens reported by the Central Register of Foreigners in one year
2003: EU15; since 2004: EU25



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