After 10 years of discussions, the coalition parties have finally struck a compromise which will allow the children of immigrants to obtain German passports, although their parents will continue to languish in "guest" status.
Under the current law, which dates back to 1913, German nationality is inherited, irrespective of birthplace. As a result, millions of German descendants in Eastern Europe enjoy the right to German citizenship, however tenuous their links to the Fatherland.
At the same time, citizenship until now has been denied to a generation of "guests" and "foreigners" who were born and raised on German soil and educated in German schools. Earlier this year, the government even imposed travel restrictions on children of immigrants from Turkey and North Africa.
Helmut Kohl's solution is to grant German passports to children as they reach school age. Unlike the rest of the population, they will be allowed to hold dual citizenship as minors, but will have to make a choice when they reach maturity.
The government will nevertheless continue to insist that "Germany is not a country of immigration". Immigrant quotas will be further tightened and the bureaucratic hurdles blocking naturalisation are set to remain the most formidable in the Western world.
Between 3 million and 7 million "non-Germans" live in Germany. Several hundred thousand second-generation "immigrants" are set to benefit from the new law, which liberals hope will make it easier for the first generation to adopt German citizenship.
But immigrant organisations warn it may take another generation for the state and its present citizens to accept dark-skinned Germans as their own. Although xenophobic attacks have abated in recent years, many Germans remain convinced that Muslims represent a threat to the Christian character of society, and at least one government minister is on record deploring multi-culturalism.Reuse content