Germany Considers Holding EU Referendum

A bottle of liquor and a half-empty glass stand on the table next to Angela Merkel, who is studying a confidential document with a sullen expression. “How to Break Up the Euro”. That, at least, is how Britain’s Economist imagines the chancellor’s predicament these days. “Tempted, Angela?” is the headline on cover of current issue. Indeed, chancellor is in a tricky position at the moment, as she fails to get the euro crisis under control. Of course, Economist’s notion of a secret plan to break up the eurozone is purely fictitious. But it fits into the current debate, where more and more politicians from Germany’s coalition government are talking about radical steps to solve the euro crisis. Officially, though, Merkel’s line is that she wants more Europe, not less. In the chancellor’s bid to save the common currency, she is willing to go to very limits of what is permissible under German constitution. That was made clear by her support for permanent euro rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), and her pet project, the fiscal pact. But Merkel still wants more. “We need a political union,” she recently said on German public television station ARD. “That means we have to give up further competencies to Europe, step by step, in an ongoing process. But that will probably not work, given the limits of German constitution, something that members of the opposition have been pointing out for some time. In the meantime, more and more people within the governing parties have been talking about holding a referendum in Germany on European Union. Rainer Brüderle, floor leader of business-friendly Free Democrats, Merkel’s junior coalition partner, said on Friday there could come a point “when a referendum on Europe becomes necessary.” Horst Seehofer, head of Christian Social Union (CSU), Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has even called for several referendums. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has also talked about holding a national vote on the EU. Such a vote could indeed be a way to get much needed legitimacy for a transfer of national competences to Brussels. How would it actually work in practice? SPIEGEL ONLINE presents an overview of some possibilities. There are three conceivable options for a referendum: (…..) 2. The Forced Way. Even more likely than opening up the constitution for referendums is that it comes up for discussion as a consequence of European integration. And this, of course, would require Germans to decide on a new constitution. Article 146 of the constitution stipulates current constitution “shall cease to apply on the day on which a constitution freely adopted by German people takes effect.” Indeed, Schäuble and Brüderle aren’t the only ones suspect that when the Federal Constitutional Court delivers its verdict on the fiscal pact and the ESM, it will say that limits of current constitution have been reached. What’s more, since the official stance of almost all German political parties is that response to the crisis should be “more Europe,” a referendum seems inevitable (…..)



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4 Responses to Germany Considers Holding EU Referendum

  1. Chancellor Angela Merkel faced a fresh onslaught from within her own party yesterday as a senior Christian Democrat delivered a withering critique of her leadership style and accused her of crushing dissent, stifling debate and making it impossible for anyone to succeed her. The outspoken attack followed a series of critical comments from other normally loyal party members. This time it came from the influential conservative MP Josef Schlarmann, who heads Germany’s powerful small business association – a group considered to represent the backbone of the country’s economy. Mr Schlarmann told the Leipziger Volkszeitung: “There is no real debate any more because everything in Ms Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party is presented as having no alternative. It is like eating in a college canteen which offers only one choice of meal a day. Anyone who doesn’t like the taste of it is kept away.” The MP said that under Chancellor Merkel, Germany’s conservatives had been prevented from holding rigorous policy discussions about vital issues such as the euro crisis and Germany’s plans to end the use of nuclear power. He said the subjects were simply not properly dealt with. “All the power in today’s Christian Democratic Party is concentrated in the Chancellor’s office and all ministers are completely dependent on the Chancellor. Ms Merkel can appoint them and dismiss them at will.” Mr Schlarmann described the Chancellor’s leadership formula as the “Merkel system” which he said was a ruthless tactical arrangement designed to see off rivals or potential successors. “There is no one who can succeed her. Under the present conditions even a potential successor cannot expect to replace her. It is impossible,” he said (…..)

  2. With skepticism over the euro growing in Germany, several of the country’s past foreign ministers are planning an appearance to express their clear support for the common currency. The unusual nonpartisan move comes as Germans become increasingly skeptical of efforts to save the euro (…..) In recent months, Westerwelle has increasingly turned his focus to the dangers posed by the euro crisis and has sought to be a voice of calm and confidence amid growing panic on the Continent. Indeed, many observers say that Westerwelle, long mocked for his own brand of hyperbole when it came to domestic German policy issues, has finally grown into his position. In a speech to German parliament in May, Westerwelle said: “The great historical question is whether the centrifugal forces that affect Europe are more powerful than the political strength of cohesion…. Once Europe starts to be abandoned piece by piece, it will be completely lost at the very end.” Westerwelle has argued that greater integration is necessary because the EU and the euro provide Germany more than financial benefits. “Europe is a community of values,” he said in the May speech. “There is a European model for life that we can be proud of.” Westerwelle is also part of a working group of 10 European foreign ministers called to make recommendations about the continent’s future. The group’s interim report released in June said reforms should make the EU and the euro “irreversible.” Both Genscher and Fischer have also recently gone public with pleas for redoubled efforts to save the euro and the integrity of the European Union. Genscher writes a regular column for the Berlin weekly Tagesspiegel — and recently used that soapbox to chastise those who would call into question efforts to save the euro. Fischer, for his part, is a frequent contributor to German and European papers and often warns of the consequences should the EU begin to break apart. But Fischer on Thursday backed out of the appearance saying that it had been “seized by the ministerial office at the Foreign Ministry.” He told the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Thursday (for the Friday edition) that “originially it was to be a campaign for Europe. Now it has become a campaign for Westerwelle.” The event, he said, had been originally promoted by a collection of foundations (…..)

  3. As part of its efforts to fight the euro crisis, the European Central Bank (ECB) is considering establishing caps on interest rates for government bonds in individual countries as part of its future bond-buying program. Under the plan, the ECB would begin purchasing government bonds from crisis-hit countries if yields for those bonds exceeded the interest rates for benchmark German sovereign bonds by a predetermined amount. This would signal to investors which interest rate levels the ECB believes to be appropriate. Given that it can print money itself, the central bank has access to unlimited funds, which could make it extremely difficult for speculators to continue driving yields up beyond the amount stipulated by the ECB. By engaging in bond buying, the ECB not only wants to get the financing costs of crisis-plagued countries under control — it also wants to ensure that the general interest-rate levels across the euro zone do not drift too far apart. During its next meeting at the beginning of September, the ECB’s Governing Council is expected to decide on whether the interest-rate goal will actually be implemented. However, it has already been decided that the ECB will be more transparent in the future about its bond purchases. Looking ahead, the ECB plans to publicly state the volume of bonds it has purchased from each country. This information is to be published immediately after the purchase takes place. Under current practice, the ECB announces on Mondays how much, in total, it spent on buying bonds the previous week (…..)

  4. Volker Kauder, 62, is the head of the parliamentary group of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives. In a SPIEGEL interview, he defines his party’s red lines in the euro bailout efforts and warns against hasty changes to the constitution in response to the euro crisis.


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