Germany sets `foreigners' a loyalty test

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FOREIGNERS ASPIRING to German citizenship will have to take a language test and swear an oath of loyalty to the constitution. Those are two of the hurdles erected by the government yesterday as it strove to head off a right-wing backlash in the first reform of the racially defined German nationality law since 1913.

As the opposition Christian Democrats geared up for a national petition against the new law, Otto Schily, the Interior Minister, tried to allay fears that the abolition of "blood right" would water down Germanness. "Citizenship is not a one-way street," he said. "The government expects those naturalised to respect our social order and make an effort with the German language."

The wannabe Germans will have to be model citizens. Applicants must have no criminal record, they can be disqualified if they are living off social security, and will also face political vetting. The purpose of that last rule, Mr Schily said, was to ensure that "Islamic fundamentalists, for example, are excluded".

The opposition and some of the media have made much of the threat of alien conflicts spilling into German streets, as witnessed in the past when Kurds clashed with Turks. About half of the 4 million migrants eligible under the new law come from Turkey.

The most important change will see German citizenship automatically bestowed upon third generation "foreigners" born in Germany. These new subjects would be allowed to keep dual nationality for the first time. Adults will be able to apply after eight years of residence, as opposed to the 15 years required at present. Foreigners married to Germans may apply after two years of marriage.

Until now, only those of German ancestry could be certain of a German passport.