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Film: 60 Years State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia

The State Parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia celebrates its 60th Anniversary

Narrator: The "Landtag", or State Parliament, of North Rhine-Westphalia. It's here that the interests of the state's 18 million citizens are represented. Today the "Landtag" can look back on sixty years of state history: six decades of political debates, negotiations, and at times heated arguments on issues involving education, labour, health, social and family affairs, and internal security.

Over that long period more than fifteen hundred deputies have been elected to the parliament. In government or in Opposition, they have played an active role in taking decisions which have had a direct influence on the state's inhabitants.

Regina van Dinther, Speaker of the State Parliament since 2005: "I came to politics through voluntary work. First of all I was active in the youth sector. I also worked in the disabled sector. I entered politics because I had noticed all too often that certain barriers existed. I had learned that you had to become even more deeply involved in a field. And that meant engaging in politics, practical politics. After doing that on an honorary basis for ten to 15 years, I was elected to the state parliament."

Ingeborg Friebe, Speaker of the State Parliament from 1990 to 1995: "Whenever I'm asked why I became a politician, I first have to point out that I belong to a generation with vivid memories of the Second World War and Narzism. So I became involved with youth groups very early on, usually with young trade unionists. We used to discuss why Narzism happened. The next step, of course, was to ensure that something like that could never happen again."

John van Nes Ziegler, Speaker of the State Parliament from 1966 to 1970 and from 1980 to 1985: "If Germany wants to get back on its feet, we shall have to do something. But who is going to do what? They don't want to - count me out, they say. So all that's left are the young generation and soldiers returning from the war with an unblemished reputation."

Narrator: The highest-ranking member of the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia is the President of the Landtag. He or she represents the parliament externally, manages its business, chairs the plenary sessions, and heads the parliamentary administration. Prior to being elected to this high office, presidents of the Landtag have often worked in parliament for many years. And many have lasting memories of their first day in the Landtag.

Ulrich Schmidt, Speaker of the State Parliament from 1995 to 2005: "I remember my first day in the Landtag very well. I turned up on time - I always do - even though travel connections in those days were not the best. The room for our parliamentary group was still completely empty: I was the first to arrive. So I grabbed the best seat for myself. You can well imagine what happened when all those who had been re-elected wanted to have their old seat back. After I'd been through the scenario two or three times - "Sorry, young man, but this is where I sit" - I hung around outside for a while and waited until everyone had taken their seat. Then I soon noticed who had not been re-elected and thus whose seat was free."

Narrator: In its sixty year history the state parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia has moved house several times. The first meeting took place in the Düsseldorf Opera House on October the 2nd, 1946. After that, sessions were held in a room at the Henkel works. From 1949 to 1988 the rebuilt Assembly House of the Estates on the Schwanenspiegel in Düsseldorf served as the parliament building. In the long run, however, not even the House of Estates proved suitable for meeting the constantly growing demands of a modern state parliament.

Ulrich Schmidt, Speaker of the State Parliament from 1995 to 2005: "Conditions for the deputies were extremely poor. It was like sitting in a cinema, in a room with a sloping floor. There was hardly any space between us. The parliamentary groups were side by side. The feeling this created was one of "Well, here we all are!" Indeed, we all applauded together at the right moment."

Ingeborg Friebe, Speaker of the State Parliament from 1990 to 1995: "I'd describe the situation back then as "cramped but agreeable". When we prepared a speech, we did so in the corridor. There were no offices. Nor did we have any staff to turn to. We worked on our speeches ourselves under those conditions. But I think that made them a lot livelier."

Narrator: Because of the cramped conditions in the House of Estates, in 1981 it was decided to build a new headquarters for the Landtag. The new home had to be identifiable at first glance as a parliament building - both inside and out.

Karl Josef Denzer, Speaker of the State Parliament from 1985 to 1990: "First of all the building had to provide sufficient space and thus acceptable working conditions for all the deputies, for the parliamentary groups, for the administration, and for all other staff. Secondly, you don't build a new Landtag without incorporating developments in the fields of technology and communication. Those were the basic requirements for a new parliament building."

Narrator: Other architectural requirements involved ensuring that the public gallery could be reached by as many visitors as possible during plenary sessions.

Karl Josef Denzer, Speaker of the State Parliament from 1985 to 1990: "This meant having a lift that could transport 56 people. Why that number? Because a normal bus has 55 seats. Plus the driver: that makes 56."

Narrator: The Landtag is open to everyone: artists, school groups, people from all the regions of North-Rhine-Westphalia. Visitors witness current state politics and sometimes historic highlights.

Karl Josef Denzer, Speaker of the State Parliament from 1985 to 1990: "At the time none of us even thought of German unification. It came so suddenly that it surprised us. But there was also a feeling that it was long overdue."

Hans-Ulrich Klose, Vice-Speaker of the State Parliament from 1982 to 2000: "Another outstanding event took place on October the 4th 1990 when I was allowed to deputize for the state president and hold a speech at a ceremony here in the Landtag to mark German unification. All the parliamentary groups represented here - SPD, CDU, FDP, and the Greens - gave their approval. That this could have happened really touched me deeply."

Narrator: In the sixty years of its existence North Rhine-Westphalia has achieved a great deal. The country's most populous state is also its export leader and a high-tech location of international standing.

Regina van Dinther, Speaker of the State Parliament since 2005: "North Rhine-Westphalia is a really beautiful state and its people are fantastic. You've got the dependable Westphalians, the cheerful Rhinelanders, and the people of the Ruhr District who, in the past, have achieved so much in the way of integration and continue to do so today. They are very open and engaging."

Hans-Ulrich Klose, Vice-Speaker of the State Parliament from 1982 to 2000: "North Rhine-Westphalia is my second homeland. I've spent two-thirds of my life here. I quickly felt a t home here at the Lower Rhine. One advantage of living in North Rhine-Westphalia, and especially the Rhineland, is that, even if you come from outside the region, you're made to feel welcome."

John van Nes Ziegler, Speaker of the State Parliament from 1966 to 1970 and from 1980 to 1985: "My vision is for North Rhine-Westphalia to lead us back to the prosperity and industrial importance to which we are entitled."

Ulrich Schmidt, Speaker of the State Parliament from 1995 to 2005: "North-Rhine-Westphalia has become a real homeland for many people, including me. There's nowhere else I'd rather live."

Narrator: The need to stand up for others and to show an active commitment to democracy are central motifs for the state's politicians. But why is it especially important for the younger generation to become involved in politics?

Ingeborg Friebe, Speaker of the State Parliament from 1990 to 1995: "It's important for the young to understand that politics determines their lives. If they wish to exert an influence, then they must play a part."

Karl Josef Denzer, Speaker of the State Parliament from 1985 to 1990: "We need young people as recruits, because it is not merely a question of elderly or experienced persons being involved. We also need young people in politics. It's often laborious and it occasionally takes a lot of time, but we need them."

Regina van Dinther, Speaker of the State Parliament since 2005: "Young people must not leave their future to others. They must become personally involved. There is also a desire in politics to hear the opinions of the young. Furthermore, there is a need to defend democracy. We have one of the best systems in the world and, after sixty years of peace and freedom, this is something young people ought to stop and think about every day of their lives."

Narrator: It is a decisive importance for the future of our state for the political generation of tomorrow to mobilize today. The political interest and involvement of young people is also a part of the future of North-Rhine-Westphalia.

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aktueller Monat: November  2019
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