Germany's Turkish community says let down by coalition deal on dual citizenship
BERLIN - Reuters
Party leaders German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Horst Seehofer (R) of the Christian Social Union (CSU) and Sigmar Gabriel of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) hold signed copies of a preliminary agreement, which has still to be approved by the members of the SPD, in the Bundestag in Berlin, Nov. 27. REUTERS photoAngela Merkel's conservatives broke a party taboo on Nov. 27 in allowing Germans of foreign origin dual citizenship as part of a coalition deal with the Social Democrats, but Turkish nationals living in Germany said the planned reform did not go far enough.
The conservatives have long opposed allowing people born in Germany to hold both German citizenship and that of another non-European Union country and it proved one of the most contentious issues in the talks on forming a new government. The country has some of the most stringent citizenship laws in Europe.
In marathon coalition talks, both camps made concessions - the conservatives in allowing any widening of dual nationality rules and the centre-left SPD, which had wanted it applied to all, in agreeing it could apply only to people born in Germany.
"This was not easy for us... Our citizenship laws in general are directed against dual nationality, but we thought we should send a strong signal to those who have grown up here," Merkel told a news conference.
A new coalition government of conservatives and the SPD, led by Merkel, is now expected to be in place by Christmas.
The dual passport issue has particularly irked Germany's largest ethnic minority, the three million people of Turkish origin, just under half of whom have taken German citizenship.
Studies show an overwhelming majority of German Turks would like to hold both German and Turkish passports.
The current rules had forced children of immigrants from most non-EU countries to choose at the age of 23 between German citizenship or that of their parents' country of origin. Young people born in Germany will now no longer face this choice, but their parents will often still be barred from a dual identity.
SPD hopes for further progress
"This is a bitter disappointment. It is good for the second or third generations of migrant families, but those of the first generation who have worked here for decades and made Germany their home go empty-handed," said Kenan Kolat, head of the Turkish community in Germany.
Asked by a 63-year-old Turkish journalist why his 17-year-old son could have both nationalities but he couldn't, SPD Chairman Sigmar Gabriel said: "Of course we wanted to push through a broader regulation, but this was impossible to do in coalition talks with the conservatives."
"Allowing dual nationality for those born here was a very big step for the conservatives ... We have broken a taboo and our conservative colleagues showed a lot of courage, or at the very least were prepared to try something which they were always diametrically opposed to," he added.
Gabriel said he was sure further progress would follow, though Merkel said she did not share this view.