Germany Expects 1M New Citizens
Oct. 25, 1999
BERLIN (AP) _ Germany expects to register more than 1 million new citizens next year, more than triple last year's number, because of the overhaul of its blood-based citizenship laws, the government said Monday.
The government announced plans to step up its campaign to publicize the new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, with billboards, newspaper advertisements and brochures.
``It can't be good for a democracy when such a large part of the population is excluded from democracy and democratic rights,'' said the government's special adviser on foreigner issues, Marieluise Beck.
The controversial law cuts the link between German blood ties and nationality by granting automatic citizenship to anyone born in the country. It also eases naturalization rules for longtime foreign residents.
Backers of the measure, which stirred intense debate, said it would help integrate the 7.3 million foreigners who make up nearly 10 percent of Germany's population.
Debate over the law raged for months before Germany's parliament approved it last May, straining Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's center-left coalition and prompting a nationwide petition by conservative opponents.
The law allows children to hold the nationalities of each of their parents and a German passport until age 23, when they must choose. Only in rare hardship cases would adults be allowed to hold two passports.
The period for naturalization for adults was cut to eight years from 15.