Strangers in A Strange Jurisdiction

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Sarap Karagöz won't be voting for Gerhard Schröder's SPD or Edmund Stoiber's CSU in the big election this week. If she were allowed to vote — which she isn't — she'd go for the free-market FDP. Karagöz, 37, was born in Turkey but easily qualifies for German citizenship under reforms that took effect in 2000. But there's a catch: she'd have to give up her Turkish passport, which she refuses to do.

Faruk Sen, who runs the University of Essen's Center for Turkish Studies, says only 25% of Germany's roughly 1.6 million eligible Turks have gone deutsch. Karagöz and plenty of others say that's because Turks don't feel welcome here. "It's ironic, because in Turkey, every second person is looking for a German tourist to marry," she says. "But my circle of Turkish friends is pretty diverse, and they all agree: your heart just doesn't stay here."

Sen disagrees. "It's not a question of disliking Germany," he says. "Turkish immigrants are enthusiastic about dual citizenship, but they don't want to choose between Turkey and Germany." His center found that 66% of Turkish immigrants in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia plan to become German citizens sometime in the future, though Turkey's proposed E.U. entry would make that a moot issue.

In August the government reported that 480,000 people from non-E.U. countries, most of them Turkish, had become naturalized Germans since the reforms — double the number two years before. On top of that are 100,000 children born into the new law who can keep dual citizenship until age 23. But that leaves about 2 million who haven't taken up the offer.

Marieluise Beck, the federal commissioner for foreigner issues, says government policies — not a lack of desire — have prevented would-be Germans from becoming the real thing.

She notes, for example, that Stoiber's Bavaria doesn't recognize student time and working time as continuous residency. Also, the poor economy has made it hard for immigrants to show the required level of self-sufficiency. Critics point to a backlog of 33,000 applications in Berlin as proof that bureaucracy is to blame; indeed, Berlin is the only city where naturalizations have dropped since the reforms, from 10,000 in 1999 to 6,000 last year.

Ozcan Mutlu, a Turkish-born Green politician who got citizenship in 1990, is helping Beck — also a Green — sell naturalization to immigrants with a campaign called Immigreen. But it's the opposition CDU that could benefit in the end. Though Sen's survey found most Turkish Germans vote SPD and Green, their basic values resemble those of a typical CDU/CSU voter.