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 Tuesday, 21 January, 2003, 16:36 GMT
Passport plan brings alliance to life
Germany's Gerhard Schroeder with France's Jacques Chirac
Germany and France have a raft of new ideas

France and Germany are celebrating the 40th anniversary of their co-operation agreement with a declaration promising a whole host of Franco-German goodies.

Alongside pledges of foreign policy and defence co-operation, it includes a proposal for dual French-German nationality which could have a more tangible effect than just renewing frayed ties in Europe's main political engine.

I feel very French. It would be a huge shock for my family if I became German

Xavier Froidevaux, Frenchman living in Germany
The proposal, which is a "long-term perspective" and "common goal" - in other words still very vague - would only allow dual nationality to citizens resident abroad, for example, a German living in Paris would have the right to two passports.

Xavier Froidevaux, a Frenchman living in Germany, cherishes the passport of his motherland.

"I feel very French. It would be a huge shock for my family if I became German - because of our family's history," he told BBC News Online.

Although he is married to a German, at present he could only take on German nationality if he renounced his French passport - an unacceptable demand for him.

But, he says, he and his family would have no problem with him having dual nationality.

I found it terrible to be involved in a party and a society and not have any say over the government

Berenice Manach, Frenchwoman in Germany
His colleague at the German-French institute in Ludwigsburg, Berenice Manach, gave up her French citizenship in 1987 to become German.

"My father reacted stoically, but for my mother it was a problem," she said. "She cried, she felt like she had lost me".

EU citizens have equal rights to work and live in any member state and can vote in local and European elections in other member states - but, importantly for Ms Manach, not in national elections.

"I'd been in Germany 16 years, I was a member of a political party and didn't have the right to vote. I found it terrible to be involved in a party and a society and not have any say over the government".

If dual nationality was available, said Ms Manach, she would immediately adopt it.

"It wasn't very nice to lose my French citizenship - it hurt."

Symbolic move

Andreas Schwab from the Franco-German journal Le Forum, is also attracted by the proposal.

"I'd get dual nationality. I don't need it but it's an emotional thing," he said.

Andreas Schwab
They wanted to come up with something concrete to show we can still make something happen

Andreas Schwab, Le Forum
But as well as appealing to the Franco-German fraternity, Mr Schwab thinks the proposal - much trumpeted in the German press - serves another, political, purpose.

"The declaration for the anniversary of the Elysee agreement needs a symbol that Germany and France - and the German and French people - are very close to one another," he said.

There is a dearth of concrete proposals in the declaration and existing projects such as boosting French and German language learning have had little success on the ground.

And, Mr Schwab says, the next stage of rapprochement - for example the much discussed possibility of a shared seat on the United Nations Security Council - is a step the two governments are not ready to take.

"They wanted to come up with something concrete to show we can still make something happen," he said.

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09 Jan 03 | Europe
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