Germany expected to ease citizenship path despite migration rows

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Germany is expected on Friday to approve a law that shortens the path to citizenship and makes it easier to hold multiple nationalities, moves designed to ease crippling labour shortages by making the country more attractive to migrant workers. The new law, a signature policy of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition of centrist and left-leaning parties, comes as Germany is convulsed by rows over the burden that migration is placing on public services at a time when money is scarce.

“We have to keep pace in the race to attract skilled labour,” said Interior Minister Nancy Faeser ahead of the voting the Bundestag that will pass the new law. “That means we need to make an offer to qualified people from the world over, just as the United States and Canada do. German citizenship is obviously part of that.”

Under the new rules, citizenship will be available after five years’ residence, reduced from eight, in line with neighbouring countries such as France. For people who are “exceptionally well integrated”, three years will be enough. Rules on dual nationality, now normally allowed only for citizens of other EU countries, would be loosened.

That would potentially let tens of thousands of Turks, including third-generation immigrants, become voting members of German society after their parents and grandparents contributed to the country’s post-war reconstruction.

The measure passes as parties compete with each other to offer voters tougher lines on immigration, promising more rapid deportations of illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers, in a bid to contain the rise of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which has been surging in the polls amid a weak economy and frustrations over public services.

The opposition conservatives, who oppose the new rules, have moved an amendment in parliament demanding a stop to the changes in order to “preserve the value of German citizenship”. The AfD says there should be no right to acquire German citizenship, which should be only a favour granted by the government.

A reform has long been demanded by progressives who say citizenship law must acknowledge the reality that Germany has been an ethnically diverse multicultural society since guest workers from Italy and Turkey first arrived to ease labour shortages in the very early 1960s.