Responding directly to Asti, a migrant rights advocacy group, Schonenberg told Delano on 21 July:
“I take issue with the criticism made by the representatives from Asti, which presents itself as representing all foreigners in Luxembourg,” adding that it’s “inappropriate for [a] salaried Asti employee not associated with the CNE [to] make comments on the internal functioning of the CNE since they weren’t involved.”
“I would ask people to consider what the political objectives of Asti are, and whether Asti represents a broad, melting-pot opinion of the foreign population [of] Luxembourg.”
Schonenberg’s presidency of the Conseil national pour étrangers (CNE) began in 2012--something contested at the time.
Following this debate, one reform currently being proposed therefore is that the CNE president be elected by at least 18 of the 34 members, with at least two-thirds present at the meeting.
Nevertheless, Schonenberg responds that he became president by “rules of the election as provided by the government, and I was given the mandate by the minister to do the best job I possibly could to serve the foreign community.”
Concerns about electors
Schonenberg believes the CNE was “flawed at the outset” by not having a broadly representative group of electors which, in turn, played a role into which candidates were elected. He said:
“Most of the electors are organisations which are clients of Olai, which does not represent the full breadth and scope of the foreign population in Luxembourg, and that’s an unfortunate weakness.”
Olai is the foreigner integration office, which is part of the family ministry.
Schonenberg, who also serves as chairman and CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce, is a firm believer that organisations such as Alfi and The Network, among others, are well placed to deal with work-related activites and economic empowerment, adding that such organisations would help the CNE’s composition be more reflective of the broad majority of the “full range and spectrum of political opinions that exist in Luxembourg.”
He stated that such organisations are also “multicultural and multilingual in their composition” and can therefore focus on “doing things collectively, since they’re better suited as integration vehicles than organisations made up of just one nationality group.”
During Schonenberg’s tenure, the CNE drafted a diversity and integration charter in five languages which outlined the commitment of its members to serve the interests of the foreign population in the grand duchy. This manifesto remains one of the few insights for the broader public to understand the ongoings of the consultative body.
Schonenberg acknowledges the difficulty of the variety of languages on the CNE, but states he hopes the CNE will adopt a bilingual approach in practice, with the understanding that official communication would still take place in French.
As the new CNE forms, Schonenberg believes real integration is the mainstay of the group’s success:
“My reasoning is that foreigners who come here do so to seek better opportunity, economic success for themselves and their families… integration in Luxembourg is not just done through social groups.”