Muhterem Aras – highest-ranking German in the Committee of the Regions (CoR)

Muhterem Aras (Greens) is president of the Baden-Württemberg state parliament and a member of the Committee of the Regions (CoR).

The story about a certain visa goes back almost 40 years. It was in the 80s, the current president of the state parliament of Baden-Württemberg was visiting the school. A trip to Strasbourg was on the agenda. As a student with a Turkish passport, she needed a visa to enter France. Her father, who was employed as a worker at Thyssen, had to take a day off and go to the consulate so that she could go along.

Aras was born in 1966 in a village in eastern Anatolia. When she was twelve, her father brought the family to Germany. Today’s Green Party politician spent her youth in a small village near Stuttgart. Aras has not forgotten the visa issue. “As a non-partisan representative of the state parliament, I want to make people aware that the four fundamental freedoms of the EU are not something to be taken for granted, but something very valuable”.

German delegation counts 24 members

Aras raised her hand when the Greens in the southwest were asked to fill a second permanent seat on the Committee of the Regions (CoR). The committee is not directly involved in EU legislation. However, it may issue opinions on legislative projects if the interests of municipalities and regions are affected. As president of the state parliament, Aras is the highest-ranking member of the 24-member German CoR delegation. With Florian Hassler (Greens), State Secretary for Europe under Minister President Winfried Kretschmann, the Southwest Greens are more prominently represented in the CoR than any other political force in Germany.

Aras has fought her way up. She went from secondary school to high school graduation and a degree, for which she had to take out a loan, to her own tax consulting firm with a double-digit number of employees. Because her parents did not allow her to be with her boyfriend at the time, Aras married her current husband while still in high school. The two have two children.

In 1999, Aras entered local politics for the Green Party; she was first elected to the state parliament in 2011 and re-elected in 2016 and 2021. As the first woman and Muslim from an Alevi family, Aras has held the second highest state office in Baden-Württemberg since 2016.

Opinion on the SMEI emergency instrument

She takes her office for Europe seriously. She has attended every plenary session of the Future Conference and fought to ensure that the CoR, which was originally only entitled to 18 seats in the plenary session of the Future Conference, was finally given 30 seats. “When I’m not in session in the state parliament, I never miss a plenary session of the CoR”, the politician explains from her office in the Stuttgart state parliament.

Aras drafted the CoR’s opinion on the Emergency Instrument (SMEI), with which the Commission intends to draw conclusions from the pandemic. At the time, the internal market temporarily collapsed because member states had closed national borders. The politician was not put off by the fact that the text has no legally binding effect. She said she was all the more pleased that not only had the CoR unanimously adopted her opinion, but that she had received support for her report from both the European Parliament’s rapporteur, Andreas Schwab (CDU), and the shadow rapporteurs Anna Cavazzini (Greens) and René Repasi (SPD).

Regions should be more than observers

Aras criticizes the Commission’s proposal for being too tailored to the powers of the Commission: “I would like to see the European Parliament and the regional level granted more than just observer status in the course of the emergency instrument”. She criticizes, “Currently, the measures of the emergency instrument would come to nothing because member states could continue to introduce sharp border controls”.

The Green politician makes no secret of the fact that she would have expected more commitment to Europe from the federal government, in which the Greens occupy key positions in European policy: “I would like to see a stronger positioning, for example, for the convening of the Convention, as provided for in the coalition agreement”.

Of course, she knows that the federal states are involved in EU legislation via the Bundesrat and that it is difficult to give the regions more influence on legislative work. Nevertheless, she says, “The state parliaments have an important bridging function. I would therefore like to see the voice of the CoR taken more into account“. The CoR, for example, needs to coordinate more closely with the European Parliament, she says.

Aras is elected until 2026. Many a Green has been drawn to Europe at an advanced point in her career. Could she imagine a move to Brussels? “I’m very happy with my current position”, she says, smiling. Markus Grabitz


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