Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I agree that the Linke is better than the NPD but that's not exactly much of an endorsement.

Your statement about Lafontaine's comments is a whitewash. Note that the 'foreigners', particularly those from Turkey (first thing that comes to mind in Germany when referring to foreign workers) are mostly people who have either been born in Germany or who have lived there for decades. In a normal country the vast majority of these 'foreigners' would long since be citizens. One major accomplishment of Red-Green has been the reform of the citizenship laws, however, it will take a long time for them to remedy the legacy of the old one. And Lafontaine seems to be more along the lines of the right than the left when he calls for stripping citizenship from foreigners deemed insufficiently assimilated.  He also is a big believer in racial homogeneity seeing the rise in non-white populations as a distinctly negative phenomenon, pointing Germans to the predicted non-white majority in the US as evidence for just how terrible immigration is.  As for not blaming immigrants - well the right also often says that it is understandable that poor people should want to work in wealthy Germany. And like Lafontaine, the neo-fascists of the NPD also see immigration as a conspiracy of the capitalist elites against the nation.  I have no idea what the hell happened to Lafontaine over the past several years but the results are ugly.  As a whole Lafontaine has clearly adopted the neo-fascist line on immigration. The only thing that makes the Linke better than the NPD in this regard is that most of its leaders fortunately don't share Lafontaine's beliefs.

by MarekNYC on Sun Sep 25th, 2005 at 01:07:58 PM EST
Can you explain this with links to the laws?
In a normal country the vast majority of these 'foreigners' would long since be citizens.

I wonder how many normal countries Europe might have? How do you become a citizen of Great Britain, France, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain and Portugal, if you are a foreigner? If you are a citizen of the EU, are you still considered a foreigner, if you switch countries within the EU for work and residency? In how far is it different when you are a "Chinese foreigner" in Germany versus an "Italian foreigner" or a "Rumanian foreigner"?

Are there really European countries that have laws like the US, whereby you can become a citizen after having been a permanent resident with permission to work in the US for seven years? I don't know about Canada, but isn't the difference that most European countries don't have the equivalent of a green card, i.e. an unconditional permission to work and reside in the country for an unlimited time?

And how can you strip someone of his citizenship, once you had it? Wouldn't that person become "Staatenlos" (a person without a nationality)?

by mimi on Mon Sep 26th, 2005 at 12:25:45 AM EST
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What I'm specifically referring to is the distinction between the jus solis and jus sanguinis, i.e. those who base the right to citizenship on where people were born and grew up vs. those who base it on blood. The jus soli tradition has been primarily that of France, Britain, and the various immigrant Commonwealth states.  Much of the rest of Europe traditionally relied on the jus sanguinis, though in most cases it was a moot point in practice since immigration was historically minimal. The Germans actually switched to a very hardline ethnocentric citizenship in the late Kaiserreich, appalled at all those horrible Slavs and Ostjuden that were flooding in (in actual fact many of both groups came from Prussia's eastern provinces rather than from abroad but whatever, it's perception that counts)  That law remained in effect until a few years ago. If you were the descendant of German speakers who moved to Romania back in the Middle Ages, you had the right to citizenship. If you were a 'Turk' born and raised in Germany by parents who had lived there since childhood, you had no such right.

 There is no necessary correlation between the work and residency rights conferred by a green card, and the naturalization laws. Every country I know of has permanent residency status - that's what most of those 'foreigners' in Germany have. In Switzerland you have the 'C Permit' which gives you permanent residency and full employment and social benefit rights - plus the right to apply for, but not necessarily get citizenship, if you meet a set of criteria.  The countries with what I call 'normal' citizenship laws lay out the preconditions for citizenship, and if you meet them, you have the right to citizenship.

To give an example of why I say the old approach is so screwed up.  In the late eighties there were about 1.6 million people from Turkey in Germany, of those, even back then, some 400,000 had been born there. Almost none had citizenship. By the time Red-Green came to power that number had gone above two million, with the proportion of Germany born and bred even higher. Still, almost none had citizenship.   Instead, as it is there are 1.9 million Turkish citizens living as permanent citizens in Germany, over one third of them are German born. That does not include the the 700,000 or so German citizens of Turkish descent.(2003) A majority of the 'Turkish' German citizens are, I believe, also German born. If the Schroeder government had not changed the laws, in the face of vociferous opposition from the CDU/CSU, we'd be now seeing third generation 'foreigners' reaching adulthood in Germany with close to half of all 'Turks' having been born in Germany.

From what I understand you are an immigrant yourself, here in the US.  Would you find it normal if your grandchildren were considered foreigners a half century after you came to the US?

PS. If you have an interest in the historical development of the two concepts of citizenship and nationhood from the nineteenth century to the eighties I'd recommend:

Brubraker, Rogers Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany Cambridge, MA 1992

by MarekNYC on Mon Sep 26th, 2005 at 02:36:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I might add that the old German system seems to have been close to the Swiss system. Insofar that Turkish citizens living permanently in Germany could also apply for citizenship if they met the criteria.
Which were pretty high IIRC.
Language test, proof that you have renounced your "old" citizenship etc.

I´m not sure but I seem to remember that one additional problem was/is Turkish laws?
If you don´t/didn´t have Turkish citizenship, you could/can have inheritance problems in Turkey?

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Tue Sep 27th, 2005 at 03:59:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry to come back only this late. Your answer is so comprehensive that I can only thank you with all my respect.

Obviously, I am very much for a solution of the integration of immigrants into Germany on a basis that is NOT based on blood. Hadn't we raised a bloody hell in the past on the basis of "Blut und Boden" policies?

Definitely everyone born in Germany should have a right to German citizenship and also should not lose its citizenship of its parents. If the parents themselves have two different citizenships (meaning they are a mixed nationality - both of them other nationality than the German one -) then the parents should have the right to decide which parent's nationality should passed along from parent to the child, in other words which second nationality other than the German one the child could keep in addition. Let's say you had an Indian father and a Portugese mother, both living and working their whole adult lives in Germany, their children should have the right to German citizenship and one additional citizenship of their parents.

Every country I know of has permanent residency status - that's what most of those 'foreigners' in Germany have.

I don't think that this is right, or at least it wasn't until the 1980. Most 'foreigners' had renewable residency and working permissions, even if they were married to Germans, studied in Germany and worked in Germany their whole professional life-time, they never got permanent residence status that the US for example granted me after having won the Green Card Lottery in 1987. I understand that Green Cards today are not anymore permanent, I guess I am one of the last lucky ones.

My brother-in-law, for example, studied, lived and worked his whole life in Germany, married to my German sister, and never got an unlimited work-and residency permission. He had no difficulties though to get his extensions regularly for another five years every five years. But I remember still the times in Germany where German mothers, married to 'foreigners' had to fear that their own children couldn't get German citizenship, because the citizenship according to German law was decided not only on blood, but on the blood of the father exclusively. Thank God those laws don't exist anymore.

Ha, my grandchildren? They can be whatever they want to be. I haven't asked for US citizenship yet, though I am allowed to do so, my son made a conscious decision to become a US citizen and my grand children, God willing, will have their full rights to decide what they want to be, wherever my son might raise them.

On an emotional level, the question to which country a person, who lived in two different cultures and nations during age 10 to 18, is loyal to, is a very difficult question for that person to answer. I am all for never forcing a person to make a decision about it and granting that person to decide to either have both citizenships or to make a decision to one nationality freely and of his own choice.

Thanks for bringing me up-to-date on the situation of the kids of Turkish parents living in Germany. I wasn't aware that the bloody nationality issues are still bloody problems for so many. And thanks for reading material !!!

by mimi on Thu Sep 29th, 2005 at 01:00:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
sorry to answer so late.

Focusing solely on Lafontaine is contraproductive when trying to assess the role of the Linke in a wider political context. Although I think that many people (most hypocritically the CDU/CSU) deliberately understood Lanfontaine that way, I acknowledge that he potentially could be understood as a xenophobe. But, anyway, the Linke is not Lafontaine. Have a look at the Linke's election manifesto:

"Germany is an immigration country. People from all over the world come here to us - but immigration law is affected by defense and exclusion. An migration and immigration policy which is able to shape the cultural diversity of our society is needed. Not a German "leading culture" but basic and human rights, binding everyone, have to form the basis of our living together. A democratic immigration policy has to put immigrants on par. Laws have to prevent that they could be abused for social and wage dumping. Migrants have to be paid the same wages for the same work. Investments have to be made in learning language, cultural institutions, integrational help and social work. (...)

We advocate a modern citizenship law: Every person born in Germany has to be given German citizenship. Art. 116 GG has to be changed with regard to the diverse ethnic affiliations of the Federal Republic's citizens."

In the case of the Linke, even disregarding our disagreement over the meaning of Lafontaine's statements, overemphais on personality is as much an obstacle to understanding party politics as in any case else. Even if he wanted to "adopt the neo-fascist line on integration", he would not succeed, because it is against everything the PDS, by far the bigger part of the Linke, stood for and stands for.

by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Mon Sep 26th, 2005 at 04:56:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Saturday, I agree with you that the Linke as a whole does not share Lafontaine's beliefs. And as I said in a discussion with DoDo I do not find their program extremist. It is to the left of my own views, but so what, the FDP is well to the right of mine but I don't have a principled objection to them being in government (a Mollemann fronted FDP would be a different story). What I object to is a party whose Western side is represented by Lafontaine, and whose Eastern side is full of ex SED functionaries.  Clearly you don't find that reason to boycott them. Fair enough. However, I'd think you'd at least understand the reasoning behind it - it is analogous to a moderate right winger rejecting a party dominated by ex Pinochet or Franco operatives and a racist as the most visible non-ex dictatorship flunky. The good thing is that the SED problem will slowly decline as time goes on.
by MarekNYC on Tue Sep 27th, 2005 at 05:09:29 PM EST
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