More power for the Ausländerbeirat?

When the chairman of Oberursel’s Ausländerbeirat, Dr. Franz Zenker, made his annual speech to the town council at the beginning of February, it was hard to overlook the fact that he wanted his committee to be granted the “Antragsrecht” – the right to put their own motions directly to the council.  In fact, he used the word at least nine times during the speech!

And it would seem that he may get his way, with the SPD, Green party, and CDU all supporting motions to grant the committee that right, although not without some criticism.

The speech was discussed the following week at the social and culture sub-committee, at which Councillor Christina Herr from the Green party criticised the Ausländerbeirat for not pulling together, arguing too much, and said that they needed to have better public relations.  She was also critical of the fact that information about topics discussed and even voted on on a Monday evening at the Ausländerbeirat was not passed on to the social and culture sub-committee which usually meets the next day, despite a representative being present.

She went to say that the Ausländerbeirat must recognise the topics relevant to them and use these to advise the town council, rather than the council giving them topics to talk about.

There was also strong criticism about the effectiveness of the Ausländerbeirat from  Councillor Eva-Maria Kuntsche of the FDP, in particular given that the last election only saw a turnout of 3%.  She quoted Dr.Zenker’s speech: “Many foreigners do not know about the Ausländerbeirat”, and said that in that case they should go and speak to them.

As if to prove some of these points in advance, the committee had started their own meeting the previous evening by entering prolonged discussions about the minutes of the meeting before that – minutes that at the time were not even publicly available on the town’s website.

In the end, the town council Chairman Dr. Christoph Müllerleile got so frustrated that he told them “no-one takes you seriously anymore”.

Admittedly, once the minutes were made public, it was clear that there were glaring mistakes in them, with one person even said to have given a report long after they had actually left the meeting.

In the latest meeting, Giannoula Kalargali, reporting from the planning sub-committee, managed to skip over major issues such as the trees at the Altkönigsportplatz, even though these had been the topic of a site visit and an extra session, and also missed an opportunity to have something vaguely relevant to foreigners to talk about – specifically planning permission on the site of an Italian restaurant.  In fact, having read a large portion of one planning application from her ipad, when Dr. Zenker asked the obvious question of “where is that”, she could not answer him and it was left for Dr. Müllerleile to provide information.

It begs the question of whether the Ausländerbeirat will heed Frau Herr’s words and start debating topics relevant to foreigners in the town, if they then want to go on and put motions to the town council.  It is not as if they have not had the chance in the last year, but more often than not they missed those chances, such as in May when Frankfurt International School’s building plans were on the agenda.  No discussion – just a referral to the documentation.

When they do find a topic to talk about, such as the Muslim barbecue that was cancelled, they end up asking the town’s executive for more information and are left waiting for an answer – a point that Dr. Zenker also touched upon in his speech to the town council.

So with the potential of having the Antragsrecht, what will they do with it?  What sort of motions can we expect?  And how can those motions be seen to represent the foreigners in the town, with not only the 3% turnout but also those left on the committee in some cases being those that received the least votes in the election?

Perhaps they should concentrate on being better informed, and more well-known, before they worry too much about how to table motions to the town council.

Finally, it should be pointed out that they are still on the lookout for someone to write the minutes for their meeting, so that their town hall contact does not have to do it instead of working on other things.

Committee member Natalia Bind suggested that someone from outside the town hall, ie. a normal citizen of the town, could write them.  Alderman Christof Fink told her that “if the Ausländerbeirat finds someone, the executive will not stand in their way”.

Apparently the town pays an attendance fee of €20 per meeting.  Any takers?


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 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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