ESSEN, Germany (AFP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party Wednesday toughened its stance on immigration and integration, demanding that dual nationality be scrapped for German-born children of foreigners and calling for a partial ban on the Muslim full-face veil.
The hardline measures set the party on a collision course with its junior coalition partner Social Democrats (SPD) ahead of elections next year, and underlined the challenges faced by Merkel to rein in the more conservative wing of her party.
Merkel herself had on Tuesday voiced her backing for a prohibition against the niqab or burqa “wherever it is legally possible,” before the leadership of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) voted on the issue on Wednesday.
The party has also proposed to ease the deportation process for rejected asylum-seekers.
But some in her party sought to go further, with the youth wing defying the leadership and winning a vote for a dual nationality rule to be reversed.
Allowing dual nationality was a key demand of the SPD during negotiations with Merkel’s conservatives after the last elections in 2013 that resulted in a hard-fought deal on teaming up in a left-right government.
The move mainly affects Turkish migrants, many of whom had come to Germany in the 1960s and 1970s to work but have stayed on and started families here.
Before 2014, their children had to give up either their parents’ citizenship or their German one by the age of 23.
European Union citizens are already permitted to hold both German citizenship and that of their country of origin.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere warned during a heated debate on the dual nationality motion that it would be wrong to tear up a compromise with its governing partner.
“We don’t want to reverse that,” he said, adding that it was also a blow for children of foreign origin at a time when the country is struggling with integration issues.
No other party would back such a motion, warned de Maiziere, whose separate proposal for jihadists to be stripped of their German nationalities was also approved by the congress.
But party delegates voted narrowly, with 319 votes in favor and 300 against, to scrap the compromise.
The decision quickly drew a rebuke from the SPD, with Justice Minister Heiko Maas saying that reversing the rule “would be a step backwards for integration.”
SPD vice-chair Aydan Ozoguz accused the CDU of attacking “an important integration success.”
Given the lack of backing for it from other parties, the measure is unlikely to be ever implemented.
Likewise, the call for a partial ban on the burqa is unlikely to become law as it would run into a constitutional legal tangle.
But they send a potent signal ahead of the general elections expected next September as the party seeks to win back supporters clawed away by the populist and anti-migrant AfD.
In that spirit, the CDU on Wednesday also called for migrants who are due to be deported to be taken into custody a few weeks before their departure rather than a few days ahead.
Those who make false identity declarations should have their application for asylum rejected immediately.
Deriding the center-right party’s decisions, SPD parliamentary group chief Thomas Oppermann said: “The chancellor asked the party for help (in her re-election bid) and instead got knocked between the legs.”