In 2012, more than 112,300 foreigners were naturalized in Germany. This was, according to the German Federal Statistical Office, an increase of 5,400 naturalizations, or 5.1 percent, from 2011 and a rise of 10,800, or 10.6 percent, from 2010. Thus, the positive trend of recent years has continued. Since the introduction of a new citizenship law in 2000, the number of naturalizations initially experienced a decline -- from 186,700 in 2000 to 94,500 in 2008. Since then, the numbers have been rising continuously.
As in previous years, the list of the most naturalized nationalities is led by Turkish citizens (33,200 cases), followed by people from the former Serbia and Montenegro and its successor states (6,100 cases) and Poland (4,500 cases). Therefore, the number of Turks being naturalized increased by 18.3 percent.
To apply for citizenship, people usually have to have lived in Germany for at least eight years and be able to support their families and themselves financially. German-language skills in speaking and writing are tested, and a citizenship test must be passed.
The depleted potential of naturalization -- i.e., the ratio of the number of naturalizations that took place to the number of foreigners living in Germany for at least 10 years and fulfilling all the requirements -- averaged 2.4 percent in 2012. Citizens of the EU member states have traditionally been below average at 1.2 percent -- probably because there is less additional benefit for them in acquiring German citizenship than is the case for people from outside the EU.
Maria Böhmer, integration commissioner of the German government, claimed that there was a positive upward trend in the number of Turks opting for German citizenship. She also called on the authorities to simplify the process and make naturalization procedures easier. The procedures were "demotivating and too long for those affected," Böhmer said.
According to Ekrem Şenol, founder and chief editor of MiGAZIN, an online magazine focusing on migration and integration in Germany, this was the result of a natural process. "The increase in the number of Turks deciding to become German citizens has practical reasons. There are work-related reasons, for instance. Foreigners cannot become civil servants in Germany, so if a Turk wants to become a teacher, he has to acquire German citizenship."
Mahmut Cebi, a columnist for Zaman, disagrees. He thinks that the option model ("Optionsmodell") was responsible for the increase, according to which anyone of foreign origin who received German citizenship after birth has to declare by the age of 23 whether he or she wants to keep his/her German citizenship or take another. Since the 23-year-olds this year were the first group to make this decision, the number of nationalizations increased this year. Secondly, exemption from Turkish military service has become more expensive (12,000 euros), he told Sunday's Zaman. "There are still almost 2 million Turks living in Germany with a Turkish passport; we should not ignore this number by exaggerating 33,000 nationalizations."
Sezen Tatlıcı, founder and chairwoman of a multicultural youth organization called TypischDeutsch ("TypicalGerman") that tries to emphasize the multicultural, multiethnic and multi-religious character of German society, thinks that the mood has changed in recent years. "Germanness is no longer confined to rigid boundaries; the definition has become much more inclusive. Until a few years ago, it was considered a betrayal among Turks to opt for German citizenship," she told Sunday's Zaman.
Mahmut Eğilmez, a 22-year-old student, became a German citizen only a few days ago. He wants to be a teacher. "Nothing has changed in my personal life," he says. "I am still a Turk, I still love my Turkish culture, Turkish is still my first language. My German citizenship is just about having more rights in Germany. It is necessary to engage sociopolitically in Germany, to participate in shaping our common future," he told Sunday's Zaman.