Academic journal article German Policy Studies

Republicanism and the Politics of Citizenship in Germany and France: Convergence or Divergence?

Academic journal article German Policy Studies

Republicanism and the Politics of Citizenship in Germany and France: Convergence or Divergence?

Article excerpt


In this article it is argued that the models of German citizenship are quite dynamic and evolving. The German tradition today is more in line with the French and U.S. republican model of jus soli citizenship than the ascriptive jus sanguinis. The analysis concludes that legislation and public discourse about German citizenship politics have converged toward the French model during the 1990s. This means a normalization of the long awaited "delayed" nation in the field of citizenship politics.

1. Introduction: Is the distinction between Kulturnation and Staatsnation still adequate?

The often simplified definition of two citizenship models is Jus sanguinis in Germany and Jus soli in the USA or France. Rogers Brubaker (1992) who analyzed the subject exhaustively in his book Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany, postulates that Germany and France represent antagonistic ideas about the nation. In Germany, he argues, nation and state form two independent elements, which stand in tension to one other. In France, on the contrary, the national and the political-territorial unity have fused,[i] In the short formula Germany is therefore often called a "cultural nation" and France as "state-nation". A classification, which was developed by Friedrich Meinecke as early as 1908.[ii] According to Brubaker, the antagonistic ideas of the

nation-state continue to the present and find their expression in antagonistic citizenship models: Germany seems to prefer ethnic understandings of belonging, whereas France underlines a more republican and political belonging. "How could one otherwise explain" Brubaker posits "that Germany and France have such a divergent citizenship policy, despite a very similar immigration history?" French citizenship policy, orientated towards assimilation, is characterized to be generous, because it converts immigrants into French citizens by the second generation. On the contrary, German naturalization law seems to assign immigrants a permanent alien status and therefore accentuates the difference between alien residents and persons of German descendants (ethnic German migrants or Aussiedler).[iii] These considerations lead to the question, if the antagonistic citizenship models are really so stable and dogmatic as Brubaker predicted in 1992. The multiple legal changes that took place in the 1990s in France and Germany suggest another view.

Table 1: Major reforms of citizenship law in Germany and France in
the 1990s

Year   Reform in Germany

1991   Creation of the Alien Act with a chapter
       titled "Facilitated Naturalization"

1993   Conversion from a discretionary procedure
       to a legal claim on German citizenship

2000   Automatic birthright citizenship for the
       second generation (optional model),
       reduction of the minimum residence time
       from 15 to 8 years

Year   Reform in France

1993   Introduction of the manifestation de volonte,
       abolition of the automatic naturalization for the
       second generation

1998   Abolition of the manifestation de volonte,
       re-intzoduction of the automatic system

Were these only superficial modifications or signs of a paradigmatic change? Do French and German citizenship and naturalization policies continue to diverge or can a convergence be found in essential points? And what role does the Republic play in all this? I shall analyze these questions by considering the following:

* laws and their implementation

* outcomes of naturalization policies

* political discourse.

2. Implementing Citizenship Laws

2.1 The naturalization of the first generation in Germany: From the 1913 RuStAG to the Alien Act of 2000.

Until 1990 the Reichs- und Staatsangehorigkeitsgesetz (henceforth, RuStAG) of 1913 was the only legal basis for naturalization in Germany.[iv] In the 1980s, when it became evident that "guest-workers" would not return to their home countries, the German government started to think about other solutions. …

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