Monday, February 28, 2005

The birth certificate for a new Europe

Below is the translation of the key excerpts of the Die Welt article which we reviewed on Saturday. It is headed: The birth certificate for a new Europe", with the strap line: "German Bundestag gives go ahead for the acceptance of the EU constitution". It was written by Hans-Jürgen Leersch and published on 25 February 2005.

Berlin – After a surprising turn around of the CSU in the agreement over the new European constitution, nothing stands in the way of a quick acceptance of the constitutional agreement by the Bundestag and the Bundesrat, which should happen before the summer break. For the acceptance a two-thirds majority is need in the Bundestag and the Bundesrat.

The foreign minister Joschka Fischer (of the Green party) demanded in the debate a "clear, quick and right decision with as large a majority as possible". He described the EU constitution as a "major building stone for Europe". Eurpe minister Hans Martin Bury (SPD) called the constitution the "birth certificate of a new United States of Europe", which would make the Union more manageable. Fischer and other speakers of the coalition rejected the demands of CDU and CSU for more rights of the Bundestag for having a voice in the decision making of the EU policy, because the government would be bound too much by them. The SPD member Michael Roth spoke of "political games" by the opposition.

The Union Parties issued, through the initiative of the CSU, an own law draft, which demands a voice in the decision making of the EU especially in the growth of the EU. With this the Union wants a handle against the red-green coalition request membership of Turkey into the EU. Further the Union demands that already a minority receives the right to claim against the principle of subsidiarity by the Brussels commission; even if a two-thirds majority of the Bundestag and Bundesrat is required when new concessions vs. Brussels are given.

Union faction deputy leader Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) said, that nobody wants to hinder the powers of the government, but the discussion of EU issues in the national parliaments will strengthen European decision-making. "Everything else will go wrong", warned the CDU politician. Schäuble also answered to the freedom of travel and the EU stability pact: "If you want to have open borders you should not be cavalier with the issuance of visas". Further he said that the government was lax in the use of the EU stability pact.

Critical commentary came only from the CSU Europe specialist Gerd Muller. "The increasing resignation of the public in the face of laws emanating from Brussels is a result of the irrelevance of the German Parliament in questions of European legislation." Neither in discussions about the Stability Pact nor in discussions on the matter of Turkey joining the European Union has the German Bundestag had a voice, Muller criticised. He stood for a strengthening of the Bundestag. "The ever-decreasing participation in elections to the European Parliament shows that the European Parliament cannot be a substitute for national parliaments."

The Baden-Württembergische minister president Erwin Teufel (CDU) declared the constitution draft as milestone in the development of Europe. The FDP foreign politician Werner Hoyer stated that the government had not informed citizens of the meaning of the EU constitution. A referendum had been demanded at an earlier stage from the CSU leadership, but the party had now distanced itself from this request, as well as the demand that the rights of the Bundestag in the EU had to be strengthened. Also now it seems that the opposition within the Bundesrat against the EU constitution had dropped.
There you have it: the German parliament has effectively decided for the EU constitution, while the government stands accused of not informing citizens of its meaning.

My thanks to Daniel Law and others for the translation.