How do I become German? Ministers Have the Answer

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat May 6 14:17:42 UTC 2006

>>From Deutsche Welle.

How Do I Become German? Ministers Have the Answer

Prospective Germans will have to undergo language and citizenship classes
After months of political wrangling, interior ministers of Germany's 16
federal states have agreed on common standards governing language and
citizenship courses for migrants applying for a German passport. A two-day
conference of state interior ministers in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, southern
Germany, ended Friday with a breakthrough on the tricky question of what
criteria a migrant needs to fulfill in order to qualify for German
citizenship. The issue has stirred hot debate across the country in recent

Guenther Beckstein, interior minister of Bavaria and chairman of the
conference, said on Friday that all applicants in future will have to
attend citizenship classes. They will include learning about the basic
values and fundaments of the German constitution and state.

Mandatory citizenship classes

The German Federal Office for Migrants and Refugees will be entrusted with
developing the content and concept of the citizenship courses. Applicants
will have to pay for the courses themselves. Beckstein stressed that
migrants had to sincerely attend the citizenship class in order to get a
German passport. "There has to be successful participation," Beckstein
said, adding that merely furnishing proof of attendance wouldn't suffice.
Beckstein also said that participants wouldn't necessarily have to sit a
formal test at the end of the course, but rather that their acquired
knowledge would be tested in other ways. He didn't specify what form that
could take.

The introduction of standardized citizenship courses effectively scratches
out a controversial nationwide knowledge test as proposed by the states of
Hesse and Baden-Wrttemberg. The tests in the two states, both ruled by the
conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), had triggered widespread
protest for questioning immigrants about their stance on homosexuality and
women and a 100-question quiz on random German history and politics, among
other things.

Migrants must learn German

Immigration ministers on Friday also agreed on introducing common language
tests for prospective Germans. "If you live in Germany, you have to be
able to understand and speak German," Beckstein said.He added that
naturalization would be strengthened through an official ceremony and
"through an oath or a ceremonial avowal." But it will be up to individual
states to decide whether the current declaration of loyalty to the
constitution will suffice. In addition, the two-day conference also
reached agreement on tightening one aspect of the criteria by making it
tougher for applicants with a criminal record to become German.

"Exceptions are possible, particularly in the case of driving offences,
but we don't want criminals taking on German citizenship," Beckstein said.

Compromise is "good news"

Most agree that the compromise is a fair one. "I'm very happy with the
result. Successful integration will now be crowned with citizenship," Ralf
Stegner, interior minister of Schleswig-Holstein and a Social Democrat
said. The CDU's domestic policy expert told a German new channel that the
agreement was "good news." Around 130,000 foreigners became German
citizens last year.,2144,1994157,00.html

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