Germany's Citizenship Policy in Comparative Perspective

in German Politics and Society

This article puts the 1999 German Nationality Act into a comparative European perspective. By applying a common measure of the relative restrictiveness or inclusiveness of a country's citizenship policy to the countries of the EU-15 at two different time periods, it provides an analysis of change both within and across countries. From this perspective, Germany has clearly moved "up" from having the single most restrictive law before the 1999 reform to a more moderate policy today. Yet Germany's major "liberalizing change" was also tempered by a significant "restrictive backlash." The German case therefore provides support for a broader theoretical argument about the potential for mobilized anti-immigrant public opinion to nullify the liberalization that often occurs within the realm of elite politics.