Over the past years, the CNE was crippled by internal squabbles, and was largely absent from crucial debates on issues which touched its members, such as the new law on citizenship and the 2015 referendum on the vote for foreign residents.
Sergio Ferreira of Asti, a foreiger rights NGO, said: “the CNE was totally absent from the referendum”.
Created in 1993, the CNE has 34 members, 22 of which are elected by foreign residents’ cultural, sports or social associations. Forty-nine associations were registered before the 2017 election.
The CNE members reflect the demographics of the country: there are three Portuguese members, two French and one Italian, Belgian, German and British member to represent the main foreign communities.
Twelve members are appointed by the minister for families and integration, on the basis of nominations by trade unions, business associations and Syvicol, the federation of local councils. One representative of refugees and two representatives of civil society are nominated by the government.
Lessons to be learnt
The first mission of the newly elected members of the CNE is to learn from the previous term. A glaring rift between the chair and a big part of the members on the working methods had opened up and paralysed the CNE since January 2015. It had been unable to publish any opinions on draft legislation, such as the one on citizenship.
Franco Avena, who was re-elected as a council member, said that he hopes the new chair “will have a larger electoral base and creates a team mentality within the CNE.”
He presented, together with an ad hoc group, eight reform proposals to improve the functioning of the CNE. The first priority is to increase the electoral base by integrating members of the local consultative committees on integration, the registered members of the register of commerce and companies (registre du commerce et des sociétés), and all foreign residents registered to vote in local elections.
The second reform proposal is to have the chair of the CNE elected by at least 18 of the 34 members, with at least 2/3 of the members present.
Furthermore, the ad hoc group wants more visibility for the CNE, through organising a yearly conference. It would be presided by the minister for families and integration, and present the activities of the CNE. Invited would be voters, trade unions, and representatives of businesses, in the hope to attract new candidates, because this year not every place could be filled.
Avena also wants to relaunch the debate on giving the vote to foreign residents: “the question cannot be buried”, he said:
“Almost half of the population is foreign, we cannot continue saying that legislative politics is reserved to those with a Luxembourg passport. We need to create internal cohesion, not two groups within the country. This may start with a few gestures, such as open the right to vote to those who reside in Luxembourg for at least 20 years and who have voted at least twice in local elections.”
Avena said this also with an eye on the October 2018 elections:
“In light of the 2018 parliamentary elections, it seems important that the different political parties explain how they see the CNE’s role, as it is the only association which is supposed to represent the foreign residents in Luxembourg.”
This article has been summarised from our sister publication Paperjam. You can find the original article in French here.