World Bulletin/News Desk
Support is growing within German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government for a referendum on further European integration ahead of a court ruling on the same vexed issue next month.
Rainer Bruederle, parliamentary leader of the ruling Free Democrats (FDP) and a former economy minister, said on Friday that Germany "could reach the stage at which a referendum on Europe becomes necessary."
Horst Seehofer, the head of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), said ordinary Germans should be consulted more on big European decisions, saying the bloc could not remain a "project of the elite".
Merkel's Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has also said a referendum may be required.
The Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe is due to rule on Sept. 12th on a European pact on budget discipline and the region's new bailout facility, the European Stability Mechanism, to which German taxpayers will be the biggest contributors.
The court may decide the measures are legal as they stand, in which case calls for a referendum could become more strident.
Even then, a plebiscite would probably not take place for years.
But opinion polls show the public supports the idea of a referendum, and preparing the groundwork for one could become a key issue in the looming campaign for next year's parliamentary elections, pitting pro-integration parties against more eurosceptic parties.
The leader of the opposition Social Democrats (SPD), Sigmar Gabriel, backed the idea of a referendum earlier this week.
Powers have been gravitating away from national parliaments towards Brussels during the three-year-old euro zone debt crisis, and Merkel has pushed the idea of a "fiscal union" in Europe which would bring more central control over budgets.
This has triggered concern that European policies risk losing their democratic legitimacy.
"The future development of the debt crisis will show how much EU countries are required to give up their sovereignty," Bruederle told the daily Hamburger Abendblatt.
The Nazis used plebiscites to consolidate their power and that has contributed to unease about national referendums in Germany, though they have become common at the local and regional level.
But there are growing signs that German politicians are ready to consider such a step.
Seehofer told German weekly Welt am Sonntag that he could see three areas where referendums should be possible, all related to Europe.
"Firstly, in the transfer of considerable competences towards Brussels," he said. "Secondly, before the admittance of further states in to the European Union. And thirdly, on German financial aid for other EU states.
"Should there be euro bonds? Or a debt redemption fund? Such questions should be decided by the people."
Germany's 'basic law' only permits a national referendum in the extreme circumstances of reshaping borders or drawing up a whole new constitution.
Changing the constitution to permit a national referendum would require two-thirds majorities in the Bundestag lower house of parliament and the Bundesrat upper house.Last Mod: 11 Ağustos 2012, 00:26