Photo: Victoriano Moreno
On Monday, Imade Anuri blows out his first birthday candle as Green party leader with the Antwerp city council. He is suddenly allowed to do this in the debate about mobility and road safety after the fatal traffic accident in the Lange Leemstraat. “I am convinced that Kennis does his best, but he ignores the important pieces of the puzzle from an ideological rigidity,” says Annouri.
Annouri replaced Wouter Van Besien as party leader last year. He announced a sharp opposition.
Do you think that was successful?
Annour: I was hoping for municipal councils at the time, but that turned out differently because of corona. The sharp debates were there, despite the virtual sessions. There was a discussion about Let’s Go Urban by Sihame El Kaouakibi and we called together an extra city council about PFOS pollution and 3M.
What can you expect from your group this political year?
The city is super inspiring, but the policy of this city council is uninspired. We want to give inspiration from Groen. For example, we are planning a congress on Housing, where we are looking for solutions for, among other things, the high house prices. We want the city to play a more active role in this housing market.
Mobility has been a spearhead of our party. We want to propose alternatives, now we especially want to see that no wrong choices are made. And we focus on public space. With the lockdowns during corona, we saw that squares and insufficient quality are furnished as cozy and sustainable meeting places.
With those two spearheads, your party will be the last in the news.
The discussion about skaters on the Scheldt quays is a good example. It is an overview of how policy deals with public space. The quays are for everyone, but not for skaters. I was told that Fifty Shades of grey is an exciting book, but the fifty shades of urban development policy are anything but exciting.
Is Groen not guilty of political recovery from the dramatic accident in the Lange Leemstraat?
(Outraged) Not at all. We did not respond on the day of the accident. Together with the rest of the city, we took time to mourn. Only later came the communication of mobility ships Koen Kennis (N-VA, ed.), which made it appear that the reversal of the conflict-free intersection was being done in front of the Sint-Vincentius Hospital. The hospital said in response that they had other avenues for their ambulances and were therefore not involved. I’m not quick to ask for a ship’s resignation from anyone, but now I did. Confidence in the ships is gone. Instead of defending his policies, he tried to push them aside.
At the council committees last week, you mainly wanted to know what the procedures were and who is responsible for traffic lights. What did you learn from that?
That the procedures are anything but transparent. That no external experts are consulted in such decisions. At my question, Alderman of Public Domain Claude Marinower . said (Open Vld, ed.) that he was notified, but the authority and responsibility rests with his colleague Knowledge. The mobility ships therefore have free rein when it comes to mobility and road safety. That it happened in such a way is actually unworthy of a city. Road safety is pre-eminently a question of organizing the public domain and the quality of life in neighbourhoods. And this city government doesn’t do that.
Knowledge came across as rather dejected in the council committee. He said he was scratching his head about how he could do it differently. I believe him and I have no doubt that he is doing his best. He just ignores, like fewer puzzle pieces, such as circulation plans and a different policy.
Is he awake after such a traffic accident? I am convinced of that. Only the fatal traffic accident on the Lange Leemstraat is not the first. Pedestrians and cyclists have been killed in traffic in various places in the city in recent years. How many times does this have to happen before it has to be dealt with decisively differently? There is an ideological blindness where solutions are not seen.