Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Assembly of Non-European Parisians

Today I sat for the first time on the Assembly of Non-European Parisians (Assemblée des Parisiens Extra-Communautaires). I have already served on the equivalent body for the 20th Arrondissement. They are a consultative council that exists mostly in left-wing cities, to offer representation for residents who don't have the right to vote.

France is one of the most backward countries in Europe in terms of the right to vote for long-term residents. The bare minimum required by European treaties applies: EU citizens who reside in France can vote in local and European elections. A Romanian who have lived in France for 6 months can vote, while an Algerian who have lived for 60 years in France cannot.

This would not be such an issue if it were easy to become a French citizen, but it's not at all the case. And so there are large numbers of people who have lived for years in France without the right to vote. These foreign residents councils are designed to defend the rights of foreign residents and promote their right to vote.

Anyhoo, the 20th Arrondissement has 10 delegates to the Parisian Assembly, which met for its new term for the first time today. Things were handled very well. We were welcomed at the entrance to City Hall and sent up for coffee and breakfast pastries in one of the splendid reception rooms overlooking the Seine.

When it came time to open the session, the bailiffs came to lead us to the chamber of the Paris City Council, a room full of wood and history. The deputy mayor for local democracy gave the welcoming speech, followed by the deputy mayor in charge of foreign residents, who ran the meeting.

The main business of the meeting was the choice of the executive committee, made up of one rep from each Arrondissement. We also had to vote on setting up various committees, and choose the committees we'll be serving on. I chose urban planning and development. Will see what happens with it!

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