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German parties push for referendums on major EU decisions

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12/11/13

German parties negotiating a coalition deal have submitted a document that suggests that nationwide referendums be held before any major decisions on Europe are taken.

The idea was put together by one of the working groups discussing policy compromises between Merkel’s conservatives and the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) in order to form a ruling coalition.

The SPD’s proposals include calls for referendums when new members join the European Union, when powers are transferred from Berlin to Brussels and when Germany commits money at EU level.

If the proposals are undertaken, this could limit Berlin’s ability to act swiftly in a crisis. However, they bring about such a dramatic shift in policy that they look unlikely to be approved by the larger coalition panel led by Merkel.

At present, Germany’s “Basic Law” only allows national referendums in extreme circumstances, that include changing the constitution itself or reshaping borders.

But if nothing else, the document indicates that a number of German parties are increasingly uncomfortable about the democratic legitimacy of decisions to transfer competencies to the European Union and using German money to support struggling partners during the euro crisis.

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