Alsace at the Forefront

The “Conseil d’Alsace”

In late November, parliamentarians of the two Rhine-region French departments (67, Bas-Rhin, and 68, Haut-Rhin) passed a resolution establishing a new “Conseil d’Alsace” (Alsace Council). The gist of this complicated administrative procedure consists of combining the two departments’ respective “Conseils Generaux” (General Councils) with the “Conseil Regional d’Alsace” (the Regional Council of Alsace),[1] to create a supervisory administrative body, to consolidate the previously scattered responsibilities, thereby, closer conflating the two departments. The new administrative unit is officially known as the “Collectivité territoriale d’Alsace,” but it is often simply referred to as the “Conseil d’Alsace” (Alsace Council). Its parliamentary assembly will be situated in Strasbourg, while the related “Executive Council” (similar to a regional government) is to be seated in Colmar. According to plans, individual “specialized administrations” will be headquartered in Mulhouse. This project, scheduled to be implemented by 2015, must now be adopted by the region’s inhabitants in a referendum, planned for April 7, 2013.[2] It is expected to pass with a large majority. In parliament, the vote on the project had resulted in a majority of 108 in favor, to five against and nine abstentions.

German as Economic Trump Card

Since the beginning, the valorization of German to be the official language of Alsace has been among the catalogue of demands made by German-speaking autonomists even though they, themselves, admit that only about one-tenth of all children in Alsace speak the local German dialect as their mother language. Alsace “has been German-speaking for more than 15 centuries,” claims, for example, the autonomist party “Unser Land.” “Our language is a precious heritage, a central element of our culture and a superb trump card for the future.”[5] The latter allegation has surprisingly received confirmation in the economic sector. “Germany’s economic attraction” has become “more important than the cultural disengagement from France,” remarked the somewhat right-wing extremist weekly, “Junge Freiheit,” which, as a rule, carefully registers movements for the reinforcement of “Germandom” outside the Federal Republic of Germany. “Seventy percent of the job offers in Alsatian dailies, carry the indication that the employer expects knowledge of German,” writes the “Junge Freiheit” and makes reference to Philippe Richert, President of the Regional Council of Alsace, who explained that “knowledge of German is a crucial economic trump card.”[6] This is why the Alsatian authorities are making a campaign for learning German and investing a growing amount in their German “promotion campaign.” In fact, the Euro crisis, which has caused much stronger upheavals in France than in Germany, has distinctly heightened the economic attractivity of Germany.

“The Path to Liberation”

Using Germany’s economic attractiveness as a pretext, autonomists demand broader autonomy for Alsace. Bernard Wittman, a well known autonomy advocate, claims in the recent publication (“Plea for an autonomy statute”) that, in the case of France, the current crisis is due to well-known shortcomings of the country’s political system. He sees one of the main causes being the fact that France persists as a centralized state and Europe’s “black sheep,” when it comes to granting special rights to ethnic minorities. The French crisis is, therefore, also dragging the once prosperous Alsace into the abyss. It is “unacceptable” that “Alsatians” should “pay the price” of all the errors committed by the French political class. Already since the 1990s, the situation in Alsace has been deteriorating. Therefore, the time has come for the region to rely “on its own capabilities” to “find its path to liberation.” An autonomy statute that would grant Alsace comprehensive political responsibilities has become imperative. For autonomist observers, the current administrative transformation and the establishment of the “Conseil d’Alsace” is clearly a step in this direction.[7]

Full article: Alsace at the Forefront (German Foreign Policy)

Comments are closed.