Today, on 28 February 2020, day-by-day it is 2 years that the current members of CNE had their first ‘real’ meeting, after having had elected its president and vice-president at an initial meeting on 23 January. That 28 February, two years ago, the Minister was present at the plenary meeting to ask ‘our’ brand new CNE to pronounce itself within 15 days about the National Action Plan for Integration. Out of 34 members of the CNE, he had 26 who presented themselves.
More recently, a letter from the Ministry of Integration dated 14 February was sent by e-mail on 17 February. That letter was addressed to the associations registered with the Department of Integration, of the Ministry in question, as electors for the National Foreigners’ Council — CNE (in french abreviation). It was there required for the associations provide the ministerial Department with “the list of directors appointed in accordance with the statutes for the current year [;] the current list of members [;] the most recent activity report of your association”. This request, the letter stated, is made in accordance with the Grand Ducal Regulation of 15 November 2011 determining the procedures for appointing foreign representatives to the CNE. This request must be completed before 28 February, knowing that “those associations which do not comply with this request or transmit incomplete files shall be automatically withdrawn from the register kept by the Department of Integration”. It is starting to emerge a pattern of 15-day deadline requests.
In response to a parliamentary question from Marc Baum, déi Lénk, Minister Corinne Cahen informed that “a letter will be sent to the associations to extend the initial response time by 15 working days”. The answer given by the government responsible for the integration sector also informs us that the reason for the initial short deadline was “the need to replace resigning members and the urgency invoked by the Presidency of the National Council for Aliens”.
A first reading of this case doesn’t bring anything strange to the eye. Nevertheless, and with a more detailed analysis, it is a matter of urgency that the ‘thing’ is not so simple.
Let’s be divided into parts.
The regulation at stake determines which associations are entitled to vote the members of the elected part of the CNE (from 34 members of the CNE, 22 members are elected and 12 appointed by the minister of guardianship, under the proposal of the social partners). The regulation at stake determines that: are electors “the associations of foreigners with a social, cultural or sporting activity, the association of foreigners being that of which either the majority of the current members, or the majority of the current members, are of a nationality other than Luxembourgish” and “associations working primarily in favour of foreigners”.
However, I shall not risk to much in claiming the number of associations who meet these two criteria can be counted, surely, way above the five hundred. The question that imposes is: how many associations are electors of CNE? On 8 July 2017, the day when the current members of the CNE were elected, this list included 55 associations. The process of updating the Ministry’s files, falling over a school holiday period and within the two weeks preceding the Migration Festival, cannot have any other consequence than a ‘cleaning’ of the electoral roll.
The question also needs to be asked about the reasons which have led the Ministry’s services not to make this approach accessible to ALL the associations that can become members of the CNE. It is up to the Ministry to maintain this list and, of course, to promote the participation in the CNE elections. Let us remember that the only role of the CNE is “to study, either on its own initiative or at the request of the Government, the problems concerning foreigners and their integration [; upon] all the projects which the Government considers appropriate to submit to it, state an opinion within the time limits set by the Government [;] to present to the Government any proposal it considers useful for improving the situation of foreign nationals and their families [; to present to the government] a yearly report on the integration of foreigners in Luxembourg”. It is not for the CNE to manage the list of electors. Indeed, it is not even the power of the CNE to organise its own election.
On the functioning of the CNE, it has to be said that during the whole year of 2019 the rate of absenteeism of the members of the CNE was 48 % (40 % for elected representatives, and 64 % for those appointed). Either for the elected representatives or for the more than half of the absences were never justified (56 % and 54 % respectively). There are even 5 members that weren’t present at any of the plenary meetings. We can add 3 who have resigned from those appointed , who have not yet been replaced. More than half of the members were not present on more than half of the meetings. The level of participation between the first and last meetings in 2019 fell from 22 to 9. It is 4th, in a row, that the plenary of the CNE does not have a quorum and the meeting is then adjourned to the following week. The argument of urgency is therefore totally incomprehensible. The urgency has been in place for a few months and it was even raised in plenary on 18 September 2019. Almost half a year after any urgency is voided of any meaning. It is also established in the regulation referred to above that “the list of entries shall be revised on an annual basis”. Unless this revision was not carried out in 2018 and 2019, it becomes even more difficult to understand all this urgency, even more so as to provide for the possible consequences.
The reasons for this increasing rate of absenteeism are several and divisible between endogenous and exogenous factors. The total anarchy with the dates and times of the meetings will be one of the most important. By way of example, we can mention both the internal inability to meet decisions on the timing and frequency on the dates for meetings, but also the impossibility of certain dates, given the unavailability of the secretary placed at the service of the CNE by the Ministry of Integration. A ministerial official is a human being and also has a personal life — it is precisely for this reason that ministries have several officials.
The National Foreigners’ Council model with a majority of foreign members was a conquest after several years of struggle by Luxembourg’s associations of foreigners. This model is now at risk. With an election that was received in July following a call for applications and entries for the voters’ list in a fairly discrete manner, this last step would, surely, have the result of removing from the CNE’s ‘electoral books’ the associations of foreigners in Luxembourg. There will be left, nearly, only those “acting primarily in favour of foreigners”, despite the fact that of their associative body not having “the majority of the current members [with] of a nationality other than Luxembourgish”.
Prevented for the upcoming decades of having access to the vote for the parliamentary elections, foreigners only have the CNE to voice their concerns to the authorities in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Now, the process is to continue to undermine the legitimacy of this Council. As the footman on the ground away behind the chair of their Master, after having served them for the day, foreigners, politically, only have to wait for the crumbs that can fall from the big table.
In 2018, the GDP per capita of Luxembourg was almost EUR 100.000 per person. The CNE’s budget is EUR 20.000 for the year 2020: 0.0001 % of the total state budget for 2020. For the government, the voice of each foreign living in the country is worth but 7 cents of the euro.