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Petra Roth, former Mayor of Frankfurt

Petra Roth, Germany’s most revered woman mayor, is 80 years old


Petra Roth, Frankfurt

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier: "Petra Roth's work was determined by the will to ensure a lovable, cosmopolitan, peaceful and responsible city."


May 2024: During her 17 years in office, from 1995 to 2012, as Mayor of Frankfurt/Main, Petra Roth was often compared to the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Indeed, the two politicians had a lot in common. Both came from relatively modest backgrounds, were conservative and had to assert themselves against male political rivals. But they were also very different. While the British politician often stubbornly insisted on her position ‘The lady is not for turning’, Petra Roth pursued realpolitik. She often made decisions that met with resistance from her party colleagues in the CDU (centre-right Christian Democrats).

 

Petra Roth’s decision to advocate the controlled distribution of heroin at the beginning of her term of office met with little support from within her own ranks. She decided that addicts should no longer be treated as criminals but as sick people. Her drug policy, which became known as the Frankfurt Way, was successful. The number of drug-related deaths in Frankfurt fell significantly.

 

In contrast to many conservative politicians at the turn of the millennium, Petra Roth pursued a tolerant immigration policy. Frankfurt was the German city with the largest proportion of foreigners and immigrants. "Tolerance is a necessity," she said. The Frankfurt Mayor therefore always advocated a liberal education and integration policy. She also argued enthusiastically for the construction of a mosque in the city.

 

In 2006, despite her support for the expansion of Frankfurt's international airport - a project that was vehemently opposed by ecologists - Petra Roth did form a working coalition with the Green Party. It was the first 'black-green' coalition in a major German city (Grossstadt). She said at the time that there were occasional ideological trench wars with the Greens (such as the expansion of the airport). But with Lutz Sikorski, the then leader of the Green city council parliamentary group, a man she appreciated, a lot could be achieved for Frankfurt. Petra Roth was proved right.

 

For Petra Roth herself, one decision in her 17 years in the Römer, Frankfurt's historic city hall, was formative - the reconstruction of Frankfurt's old town (Altstadt), which had been flattened during World War II. A crazy project, it was initially said, why should the office buildings, only built in 1974, be torn down again? Later, when the first plans became public, there was talk of a 'Disneyland'. And today? The area between Frankfurt Cathedral (Frankfurter Dom) and the historic City Hall (Römer) has become a magnet for Frankfurt residents and visitors. From the point of view of renowned architects, the ‘new old town’ (neue Altstadt) has been very successful in terms of urban planning.

 

It has been 12 years since Petra Roth stepped down as mayor of Frankfurt. But she refuses to live in the past. She is alarmed by the rise of the far-right and believes that democracy is in danger. She was present at the big demonstrations against the right and stood in front of tens of thousands on the stage in the centre of Frankfurt. “But demonstrating is not enough,” she says. “Even in private conversations, it is important to repeatedly point out how vital the fight for freedom is.”

 

On her 80th birthday on May 9, 2024, Petra Roth was awarded an honorary professorship by the state of Hesse.

 

Germany's President Frank-Walter Steinmeier congratulated her: "On this day, I wish you a satisfied look back at what you have experienced and achieved and an optimistic look ahead. In 1995, you were elected Mayor of the City of Frankfurt am Main. Your work was determined by the will to ensure a lovable, cosmopolitan, peaceful and responsible city. Your popularity, which continues to this day, is an impressive testimony to your successes and, above all, to your extraordinary closeness to the people. (Bürgernähe)."

 

Mike Josef, Frankfurt's current mayor, emphasised: "Petra Roth has successfully steered Frankfurt's fortunes as mayor for 17 years and has given our city a new, friendly and progressive image. I greatly appreciate my encounters with Petra Roth. I am impressed by her open-mindedness and joie de vivre." Josef continued with a quote from the former mayor: "On her inauguration in June 1995, she said: 'Our mission, no matter what function we hold, is to serve the community’. I can only agree with that."




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