Germany is developing a plan to facilitate the acquisition of citizenship

Germany's Interior Ministry on Monday defended a government plan to make it easier for people to apply for citizenship, despite complaints from within the coalition and opposition that it could spur illegal immigration.

The government has said it wants to boost immigration to tackle a skills shortage that is weighing on the country's economy at a time when an aging population is piling pressure on the public pension system.

"This is a pivotal plan with the clear recognition that Germany is a country of immigration," a ministry spokesman said, responding to reporters' questions about the complaints.

He added in the press conference: "We are talking about a plan laid out in precise details in the coalition agreement."

Home Secretary Nancy Weser, who belongs to the Social Democratic Party, hopes to reduce the maximum number of years a person must wait before becoming a citizen from eight to five, and lift restrictions on dual citizenship.

The German language requirements for citizenship will be eased for members of the so-called generation of foreign employees and workers, many of whom are Turks who came to Germany in the 1950s and 1960s as foreign employees and workers.

The draft could be subject to modifications as it will be presented to other government ministries for advice in the coming days, after which it must be approved by the three-party government and then presented to lawmakers in the German parliament (Bundestag).

The general secretary of the Free Democratic Party, the least influential coalition partner with the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party, expressed his objection to the plan.

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