1.11.2009 | Von:
Daniel Naujoks

Naturalisation, democracy and rule of law: risks and opportunities

It is especially important at this point to analyse critically whether, and if so, to what extent, the debate about dual citizenship is associated with arguments relating to the naturalisation of foreigners in general.
Gökay Sofuoglu, der Vorsitzende der Türkischen Gemeinde in Baden-Württemberg, hält am 07.06.2013 in Stuttgart (Baden-Württemberg) einen deutschen und einen türkischen Pass in der Hand. Gökay Sofuoglo hat die doppelte Staatsbürgerschaft.The chairman of the Turkish community in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, Gökay Sofuoglu, holds dual citizenship. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

In this regard, objections to dual citizenship are often an expression of fears associated with the notion of an increasing trend towards naturalisation. As is shown in more detail in this section, the concerns put forward are often based on perceived dangers for the country´s internal security as well as on an assumed shift in political power caused by a change in the demographic profile of the electorate. This raises the question of to what extent these concerns are justified and whether arguments against increased naturalisation – both in general and in the context of dual citizenship – can be reconciled with fundamental democratic principles. Alongside possible risks for society, it is necessary to consider the opportunities presented by conversion from de facto state members into de iure state members.

Internal security

Concerns for political security raised against naturalisation relate first and foremost to forfeiting the possibility of deportation. It is certainly correct that naturalised persons can no longer be expelled or deported if they commit crimes. This concern can be countered at least in part by the fact that foreigners who are conspicuous for their criminal activities will not as a rule be granted German citizenship anyway. [1] Moreover, critics mostly fail to recognise that even the expulsion of foreigners of long-standing residence is possible only under very specific circumstances. Only as recently as August 2007 did the German Constitutional Court strengthen the special status of so-called "de facto citizens" for whom length of stay in the country is always to be taken into consideration for any expulsion order, as is how well such persons are integrated within German society and whether they actually have ties to the state of which they are nationals. [2]

The fear that recognition of dual citizenship would lead to naturalising terrorists [3] is unjustified. Those who do not shy away from terror surely have no problem giving up their original citizenship. It rather seems that an exclusionist attitude is buttressed by tying it to the important issue of internal security. In reality this raises the question of whether the risk that a handful of criminals cannot in fact be deported justifies the permanent exclusion of many hundreds of thousands of people from participatory rights.

At the heart of much of the exclusionary tendency is concern about immigrants emerging as a political lobby. Often there is a fear that the "indigenous population" might be dominated by a large group of immigrants whose status as citizens has been gained merely in a formal sense. [4]

These fears of a loss of power give rise to three questions. First, it should be asked just how many more immigrants would be naturalised if dual citizenship were to be recognised and thus, how many new voters would in fact be created. Second, there is a need to evaluate what resonance might be expected in political circles given a change in the electorate and third, whether considerations of the benefits, and the values that underpin society, do not make an eventual loss of power and other possible negative effects appear rational or even right and proper.

(a) Naturalisation rate and dual citizenship
Criticism levelled at dual citizenship is often based on an assumption that if it is recognised the consequence will be "mass naturalisation". It is difficult to predict what increase can, in fact, be expected in the rate of naturalisation on the basis of this circumstance alone. Sporadic studies on this subject indicate that should dual citizenship be recognised there might well be an increase in the number of naturalisations, but not the "mass naturalisation" some critics fear. [5] This applies especially in a country such as Germany where there is no particular tradition of naturalisation and where citizenship is not the basis for the granting of social rights.

(b) Change in politics – political resonances resulting from a change in the electorate
The question as to how the political organisation of new citizens and the changes in the political picture would turn out cannot be answered with certainty. It is not unrealistic to expect to find that increased naturalisation will result in new citizens having a greater presence in German politics.

Nonetheless, it appears misleading to perceive the potential new citizens as a uniform, homogeneous mass joining together as one to represent its own interests. Although people possessing Turkish citizenship represent the largest single group of immigrants, they comprise only one quarter of the foreigners living in Germany. [6] Even Turkish migrants fall into different religious or non-religious, Sunni and Alevite, Kurdish and non-Kurdish, traditional and modern camps. The interests of workers, academics, the self-employed and unemployed of Turkish origin often do not coincide; that they would unite politically merely because they share a common origin seems less than likely.

Migration backround of the populationMigration backround of the population Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de (bpb)
Moreover, people often overlook the fact that, apart from foreigners who do not have a German passport, a further eight million Germans or 10% of the resident population have a migration background (see figure). Almost half of them (44%) are naturalised persons. 23% are descendants of ethnic German repatriates (mostly from Eastern Europe), so called 'Aussiedler' [7] and 34% of Germans with a migration background are the children of foreign-born parents These people too have, to date, caused no serious power struggles or redistribution of power. The behaviour of this diverse group of people as voters has also been very inadequately researched as yet, for which reason it appears premature to draw any definite conclusions with regard to changes in the political structure. [8] Conservative centre-right politicians sometimes fear that the political integration of migrants would necessarily lead to a power shift towards the political left. This is not, however, by any means certain. People usually overlook the fact that migrants are often inclined towards conservatism and thus most definitely represent potential voters for conservative parties. [9]


Cf. Section 8, para. 1 Item 2 and section 10, para. 1 Item 5 German Citizenship Act.
Decision of the German Constitutional Court, 10 August 2007, Ref. 2 BvR 535/06.
Thus the then Bavarian Minister of the Interior Beckstein (1999): "Acts of terror perpetrated by the PKK make us suspect: if there were millions of German-Turkish, German-Serbian or German-Albanian dual nationals living in Germany, then we would automatically have the conflicts from these regions here in this country." [translation by the author] Edmund Stoiber is also quoted in Die Welt, 4 January 1999, as saying dual citizenship is a greater danger to security than the terrorist actions of the RAF (Red Army Faction) in the 1970s and 80s.
Thus, inter alia, an anonymous comment on www.welt.de dated 12 June 2007 predicts "The Turks of today are the SPD voters of tomorrow. The day after that they will found their own party and the SPD will become history." [translation by the author]. Roland Koch (in Die Welt dated 15 January 1999) also fears something similar. See also Green (2005:941).
Thränhardt (2008:30ff.) studies the experience in the Netherlands where dual nationality was accepted upon naturalisation in the 1990s but then rejected again and determines a clear increase in the naturalisation rate for the period when multiple citizenship was permitted. See Naujoks (2008:405ff.) for further references. Table 1 also indicates a positive correlation between the number of naturalisations and acceptance of dual citizenship.
According to the Central Register of Foreigners (AZR), of 6.7 million foreigners registered on the 31.12.2007, 1.7 million were Turkish nationals (25.4 %).
Since the reform of the German Citizenship Act, with effect from 1 August 1999 ethnic German repatriates (mostly from Eastern Europe) are granted German citizenship through a separate certificate. Previously, they were formally naturalised.
For one of the few studies see Wüst (2006).
In an interview with Die Welt on 8 November 2003, Faruk Sen, director of the Essen Centre for Studies on Turkey, points out that the CDU has disproportionately high number of supporters among Muslim migrants.



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