Discussion with Mr Dregger (CDU) at the State Parliament of Berlin

On July 5 2017 we met Mr. Burkard Dregger, deputy of the German middle-right party CDU at the state parliament of Berlin (das Abgeordnetenhaus).

Our group met him in order to discuss some of the main political issues of the moment: Migration flows, security and social cohesion, and last but not least the European integration. By discussing the “right to vote” for EU and Non-EU citizens, we tried to handle each of the above mentioned topics.

The meeting began with a general introduction by Kamilla Schöll-Mazurk, researcher and coordinator of the seminar on “EU-Mobility” at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), regarding “political participation” and “right to vote“ for European citizens in Germany.

According to the Council Directive 94/80/CE (1994), the citizens of one of the member states living in another country of the Union can exercise the right to vote and to be voted just for municipal elections. That means that in the hosting country they have no access to elections on a regional and national level.

For instance Berlin, which is a “City-State” according to article 1 of its constitution, is a very interesting case of study. The municipal level can be compared with the elections of the BVVs (Bezirksverordnetenversammlungen) and the BezirkbürgermeisterInnen, respectively the elections of the district council and the mayor of the district.
The election of the City Major is excluded, because he is compared to a Minister President. The same happens with the election of the members of the local parliament. Those kind of elections are understood as “regional”.
According to recent statistics, 14% of Berlin’s total population is composed by foreigners, and if we also consider those with a migration background, the percentage rises to around 28%.
A very consistent part of the population cannot participate to the political life of the city and cannot express their opinion through the regular elections. This issue rises a “normative problem”: Is that right?

Mr. Dregger argued that in order to strengthen the social cohesion and the European project, we should allow European citizens to participate to political life both on the city and state level. But a specific condition should be set: Reciprocity must be respected. In other words, only if all 27 countries belonging to EU agree that German citizens abroad can vote in the European countries they are living, Germany would allow the right to vote to European citizens.

This kind of logic is not valid for the citizens coming from a third state, for instance people from Turkey or Russia. Mr. Dregger was clear and strong in his position: “I totally disagree with this option”. Behind this position, we can find, according to his explanation, two main reasons:

1) Security: Increasing power of Non-European citizens in the internal political life could threaten the hosting country and 2) Identity, cultural and nationalistic issues.

The first point is easily understandable: What would happen in Germany if everyone could be voted and vote during both regional and national elections? What kind of influence could the Russian or Turkish community have in the German internal political system? And what kind of control could despotic leaders such as Putin or Erdogan, as Mr. Dregger stated, have in Germany?

The second point could be described as an “assimilationist approach” to integration, similar to the one applied in France: If a person wants to vote or to be voted in Germany should get the German nationality first and reject his old one. The French experience shows us that this kind of approach is not as efficient as many could think.

Mr. Dregger concluded arguing that it is also a question of “sovereignty”. While strongly defending the importance of the European Union and a deeper integration, in terms of solidarity and reciprocity, as we argued before, he underlines that the control on the national level is still a key issue in order to keep people safe and to create a society based on respect and acceptance.

Weather this kind of approach can or cannot produce a positive and efficient result, is still an open question.

After the discussion, we visited the Haus together with Mr. Dregger which was a very nice and pleasant guest.

Federico Quadrelli

Photo © Kamila Schöll-Mazurek


One thought on “Discussion with Mr Dregger (CDU) at the State Parliament of Berlin

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  1. Dear Federico,

    I am grateful to read your report. The mentioned topics such as the influx of migrants, national security, social cohesion and EU-Integration are directly related to EU mobility. As such, it is important to discuss them from various perspectives. I am glad you had the opportunity to share views and opinions with someone from the state parliament of Berlin. Although do I wish you would have had the chance to meet with perspectives that are more open to migrants¹ in general.

    Regarding your paragraph on migration flows, you point out the exclusionary system of non-voting eligibility for migrated EU citizens in Germany. The comparison with the BVV’s and its district mayors seems reasonable, due to your meeting in Berlin’s state parliament. However, I do not understand the link between regional elections such as the BVV’s in Berlin, and migration flows within Europe. Moreover, unfortunately, I cannot comprehend your definition of the term ‘migrant background,’ which seems important to understand your honorable approval for political participation in hosting countries. However, I really would like to understand this “normative problem” you are talking about. We could use this key term to start a conversation about analyzing migration flows.

    Not surprisingly, when contextualizing the belonging of the politician’s party (CDU), is the presented argumentation for social cohesion in your blog post. The questions of consequences with changes made to voting eligibility seem valuable for understanding political, social and cultural effects. Although it must be said that our colonized minds tend to consistently reproduce power. Despite this, I strongly disagree with the rationalization of identity and nationalism in order to defend the denial of political participation. To name only a few reasons; First, it is a violent fear that grows from the desires of ruling powers and second, the self-understanding of national thinking is a colonial construction that has not only serious consequences for global orders but is also toxic for European peace and identification. Therefore, I support your understanding as an assimilationist approach and I am glad that other European parties, such as the green party, are slightly more reflective of this. Still, there is far more racism behind such discourses than one might suppose when talking about a specific topic such as EU mobility, cohesion or integration.

    This leads me to the next questionable argumentation of Mr Dregger. As you pointed out, with the example of France, his interpretation of sovereignty is not leading to efficient results due to EU integration. Well, I would argue that approaching sincere sovereignty within the European construct would lead to significant changes and reallocation of wealth; not only economically but also in the sense of social and cultural capital².

    All in all, I hope we can finally receive honest and complex identities that grow on multiple interactions. Moreover, examining sovereignty between the European Member States and Europe itself can be more fruitful if critical perspectives are considered. Particularly, non-European voices, that are regarding the construction of Europe in its historical development and current power position. Primarily, a perspective that is aware of systemic exclusion and institutional power would be a precious position that can be productive for the prospective development of Europe.

    Warm regards

    Pauline Bulin

    ¹ The term ‚migrant‘ is here understood in the public discourse. Thus, people coming from non-German countries. However, talking about migrants and not pointing out the differences of institutional power such as nationhood, post-colonialism and further aspects are misguiding the discourse. However, here it is used to sensitize these narratives for the construction of white supremacy. As it is this supposed white majority society that decides whether somebody is denoted as ‘migrant’. In Germany, citizens such as Sinti, Roma, Black Germans, German People of Color are perceived as non-Germans due to external characteristics. Nevertheless, the juristic definition of such a term is more common in political science.

    ² Capital can be regarded from different views. In this comment, it is understood as a from society constructed term to describe socio cultural consequences. For the initial explanation of capital see Bourdieu’s ‘forms of capital; (1986).


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