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Parliament OKs Citizenship Reform

May 22, 1999

BONN, Germany (AP) _ Parliament gave final approval to a historic overhaul of Germany’s blood-based 1913 citizenship law, despite continuing opposition from conservatives who had succeeded in watering down the reform.

The new law, passed by the upper house Friday, 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.

Interior Minister Otto Schily spoke of a watershed toward a more modern sense of nationhood that would help integrate Germany’s 7.3 million foreigners, who make up nearly 10 percent of the population. The largest group, about 2 million, are Turks.

``To define the nation mainly by blood connection was one of the tragic errors in our past,″ he told the chamber.

Debate over the plan has raged for months, straining Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s center-left coalition and sparking a nationwide petition by conservative foes that has garnered some 5 million signatures. The lower house passed the bill earlier this month.

The new law, to take effect Jan. 1, allows children to hold both their parents’ nationality and a German passport until age 23, when they would have to choose. Adults would be allowed to hold two passports only in rare hardship cases, as previously. Schroeder dropped plans to make dual citizenship the rule under conservative pressure.

The period required for naturalization is cut to eight years from 15.

Edmund Stoiber, Bavaria’s rightist governor and a possible challenger to Schroeder in 2002, reiterated his opposition to the reform. He charged it ``does not meet the legitimate interests of the majority of the German people.″

Foreigners should get a German passport only after integrating into society, he said in the upper house debate.

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