A Bridge or Barrier to Incorporation? Germany's 1999 Citizenship Reform in Critical Perspective

in German Politics and Society

This article probes the consequences of Germany's 1999 citizenship reform as it pertains to the incorporation of immigrants. We maintain that the law's principled rejection of dual citizenship and related stipulation that children born into German nationality via the law's revolutionary jus soli provision choose between their German citizenship or that of their non-German parents between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three is unfair, potentially unconstitutional, and likely unworkable in administrative terms. We also argue that the decline in naturalization rates in Germany since 2000 is due to a combination of legal, administrative, and symbolic barriers in the law, as well as a lack of incentives for naturalization for immigrants from European Union member states and other rich industrialized countries. We believe that progress in the area of incorporation will require a shift in outlooks on the part of German political elites, such that immigrants are seen as potential members of a diverse community of free and equal citizens rather than untrustworthy and threatening outsiders.