When the Ausländerbeirat visited the FIS…

It was a meeting of the Ausländerbeirat like no other that I have visited until now.  Not only where all the members of the foreigners’ sub-committee present for the entirety of the meeting, but 16 guests turned up as well.

Admittedly those 16 included the press and members of the town council, with all of the parliamentary groups except the CDU represented, but at least half were simply members of the public who had come along to see the committee in action and to pose their questions.

The reason for such interest in a committee whose guests don’t normally make it into double figures was very likely due to the meeting place: Frankfurt International School.

The Ausländerbeirat at Frankfurt International School

From left to right: Ljucija Zenker, Chairman Franz Zenker (Vorsitzender), Chantal Le Nestour, Giannoula Kalargali, Homayun Wafa, Gabor Czilli, Erzsebet Czilli, Alderman Christof Fink. (Not shown: Natalia Bind)

The idea – one suggested on this site last November – was to show a presence in the community and be more in touch with them.  To an extent they managed to do this, even if the citizens’ questions time got left off the agenda and had to be formally re-instated at the beginning on the meeting.

And this they did, albeit with some difficulty as local laws dictate that the meeting must be held in German, whilst some of those asking questions preferred to do so in English – understandable considering the location.

However chairman Franz Zenker did his best to translate the questions into German for those at the table and return the answers back to the audience in English (and he certainly did better than some politicians have been known to do).  All the same, if this becomes a regular event then maybe using an interpreter should be considered to make sure that the finer details of the questions get translated properly.

Now, one of the problems of people suddenly having contact with the local administration is that their questions may not actually be for people on the sub-committee.  In fact, three out of four ended up being passed on to Alderman Christof Fink, who luckily was also present at the meeting.

Questions were posed about after-school child care, the closure of the pension advisory centre, clearing the roads of snow during the winter, and the re-development of the station area, with only the last being dealt with directly by the committee.

Franz Zenker also reported on the decisions taken by the town council in their last sitting.  The first of which is to arrange a replacement for the committee’s representative in the town hall who retired last month.  Then they decided to look into improving the sub-committees presence on the internet, albeit with the restriction that this should be part of the town’s website.  And finally, one of the other suggestions made on this site back in September last year reached a stage where it is being look into, namely giving every foreigner who registers in the town information about the sub-committee’s work.

Even with some restrictions in place, that is definitely progress on the situation several months ago.

Less progress has been made on the reports from other sub-committees and preparing for their next meetings.  Admittedly, the reports from the social and culture sub-committee and the finance sub-committee were more detailed than they were in the past, but the building- and environment report was missing at least one important point and as is so often the case there was a simple referral to the minutes of that meeting.

Preparation for the forthcoming committee meetings was almost non existent, and certainly the question “is this relevant to foreigners in the town” was, in my opinion, not being applied to those preparations.

With the official part of the evening over those present were invited to take a tour of the school with Vera Thiers, the school’s marketing manager.

And yet, something was still missing.  In a way, the evening was over too soon because in one newspaper today it was reported that the evening would include a discussion on the relationship between the school and the town’s sub-committees.  But not only was this not on the agenda, the discussion simply did not take place.

The Ausländerbeirat is on some very thin ice here, because in their effort to make a good impression at a second glance they may well leave the wrong one. They may have met people out in the community, but with most of the citizens’ questions being answered by someone who is not even a member of the committee and the topic of the school itself being sidelined, the question of whether it was all worth it might not be far off.


About Graham Tappenden

Graham Tappenden is a British ex-pat who first came to Oberursel in 1993 and returned with his family to live there in 2003. He has been writing for AllThingsGerman.net since 2006. When not writing blog posts or freelancing for the Oberurseler Woche he works as a self-employed IT consultant solving computer problems and designing websites. In 2016 he gained German citizenship.

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