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.
Photo © Kamila Schöll-Mazurek