After Peter Feldmann finally had to step down as mayor this Friday, Mayor Nargess Eskandari-Grünberg took over on an interim basis. In the interview, she talks about the selection, her plans for the following months and the issue of the mayoral candidacy.
Nargess Eskandari Grünberg: This shows that democracy is very important to us and that citizen participation matters to people. We keep complaining that people don’t vote. So I was very pleased that the turnout was so high and that so many people turned out to vote. It was a great day of democracy. And it is good that this cloud is no longer hovering over Frankfurt and the magistrate’s work is becoming visible again. For example, we accepted 10,000 refugees from Ukraine within a short period of time, cared for and sheltered hundreds of people every day, and also independently initiated many other issues. But the topic of voting was so dominant in the media that our work in the coalition was not perceived properly.
When the quorum was reached on Sunday, you and Julia Frank were at each other’s throats. What was your thought at that moment?
Julia Frank is the spokeswoman for our party, who was very committed to non-election, and I just shared the joy with her. But my first thought was: we need to restore faith in politics and in the Romans.
How do you want to do this?
For many citizens it was very difficult to constantly face this topic. We must not reduce this city to the mayor, who has now been voted. They have shown this with the participation of citizens. Now we have to give them the feeling that we are taking them seriously and that we are making sure that the work is better communicated within the coalition, but also with the outside world. My task on Monday will also be to take the things that are left here on the road: next year we have a big celebration with the anniversary of Paulskirchen, we have to make sure that we have a good winter, come healthy and humane and no one is left alone . I know what it means when money is tight at the end of the month as a single mom. How do you manage? We have to be there for people – social cohesion is a big issue for me.
What topics do you want to cover first?
On the one hand, the theme of the House of Democracy and the anniversary of the Paulskirche must be organized – time is short. We have a price for democracy that we want to give – this is not done. We want to quickly advance the offers for the many refugees and the administrative staff that is being created for this purpose. It is important for us to help people in need together. The list is long. People shouldn’t get different, complex answers in the coming months, but they should be able to rely on the city to help. And for the next few months I will lead a collegial body, the judge. I would like to take the lead there, but prioritize collegiality. He doesn’t have to go alone anymore. This hasn’t really worked in the past.
The anniversary of Paulskirchen was also an important matter for Mr. Feldmann and where he was always very present. Has the anniversary suffered from the situation of the last few months?
Absolutely. The anniversary is not only a city issue, but also a state and federal government issue. All this communication has suffered badly. It should be clear what the role of the federal and state government is. I will now turn over to Claudia Roth, Mr. Wintermeyer and also Mr. Steinmeier to find out how we can bring together the various players for the anniversary in a short space of time. Financial issues must also be resolved. That is why I have already started to continue the talks that were interrupted to some extent. Even a house of democracy is not built quickly, for this we need actors from the federal and state governments who are willing to talk to us.
Its magistrate Mike Josef said on Sunday after the vote was taken that the city’s reputation would now be restored. How badly has this reputation really suffered outside the city limits?
I’d rather talk about reputation than reputation – it’s about the reputation and responsibility the city has internally and externally. We are not a small village, we are an international city. All eyes are on us. Citizens have told me over the past few months that this theme has been noticed far beyond Frankfurt. I got messages from Switzerland and other places where people were asking, “What’s going on over there?” We have 17 sister cities. In recent weeks there has been a lot of turmoil about what we can do with which partner city. In the German Association of Cities, we are often expected to take a leading role to some extent – we could not do that in this format. We need to restore the image of our wonderful and prosperous city: we have resources here like the ECB, international relations, people living together in peace. And we must show that we are well governed and that we take responsibility.
These tasks will also play a role for the next mayor. You are currently being marketed as a possible mayoral candidate for the Greens. You already competed in 2018 – would you be willing to do it again?
I was elected mayor, I wasn’t then. You should do this job at least well, if not great – that’s my claim. I also don’t have to go from one job to another and to another. It is up to the party to decide who will be appointed. From Monday I want to do my duty properly as acting. It’s very challenging and I’m putting all my focus on it at the moment.
If the party were to propose you: Is it an advantage if you can already prove yourself in office?
I think it’s good that from Monday people will see how I run the office. It is very important for me that a different style prevails – that cosmopolitanism and not shrewdness and selfishness are in the foreground. I want people to see camaraderie and teamwork and being there for people. I have a leading role, but it’s not for me, it’s for this city.