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Don't mess with Bavaria

The Local · 4 Feb 2010, 18:49

Published: 04 Feb 2010 18:49 GMT+01:00

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Bavaria, the deeply Catholic land of mountains, fairytale castles, beer and oompah bands has arguably shaped Germany’s image abroad like no other of the country’s 16 Länder, or states.

From Munich’s massive Oktoberfest to local village festivals decked out in lederhosen and dirndl dresses, Bavarians are set apart from other Germans by their unique heritage, dialect and identity. Some proudly distinct residents of the “Free State of Bavaria” even question whether the formerly independent kingdom is even part of Germany.

So perhaps it’s no surprise that Bavaria has been home to a separatist movement for decades. The Bavaria Party advocates independence from Germany within the European Union. Under the BP’s proposal, Bavaria would become a fully-fledged member of the bloc, mirroring the aims of similar separatist movements in Spain’s Catalonia and Britain’s Scotland.

The party argues that independence would free Bavaria from shouldering an inflated tax burden – more than a quarter of Germany’s budget is derived from the state’s tax revenues and Bavarians pay more than €16 billion annually to poorer German states.

“Germany is financially dependent on Bavaria, not the other way around. We don’t need Germany financially or politically,” Bavaria Party spokesman Richard Schöps told The Local. “It makes sense for Bavaria to become independent.”

An economic powerhouse

Certainly it would have the means to stand alone. Its GDP in 2007 totalled €434 billion, making Bavaria one of the biggest economies in Europe and the 18th largest in the world.

Though the Bavaria Party has enjoyed some popularity since it was founded in 1946, the separatists failed to win a single seat in the European parliamentary election last summer.

And in a recent survey carried out by the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the GMS institute, 56 percent of the 1,853 people surveyed said they didn’t want Bavaria to become independent. Another 37 percent even said they didn’t want more autonomy for the state.

Still staunchly conservative culturally and politically, there seems to be a slight breeze of change blowing in Germany’s deep south.

In October 2008, the Christian Social Union (CSU) – the Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats – lost its absolute majority in the state legislature for the first time in 46 years. Forced to govern with a coalition partner, this was tantamount to a revolution to Bavarian voters.

“My impression is that outside of Bavaria it is not the Bavarians per se but rather the CSU and their personnel who are perceived as potential separatists always bringing forward this idea of ‘mir san mir’,” said Bernd Goers from Berlin, referring to the Bavarian expression meaning roughly: “Take us or leave us as we are.”

The younger generation also appears to be a little less engrossed with Bavarian tradition and, in turn, is becoming more open to the wider world. Dirndls, beer, and Gemütlichkeit, or “cosiness”, are becoming less important, according to the the Hanns Seidel Foundation survey. Only 23 percent associate “culture and tradition” with the concept of “life in Bavaria,” less than half the number than in the last survey in 2003.

“The modern Bavarian is much more cosmopolitan than before. The classical Bavarian attitude towards life is over,” said the 41-year-old sales manager Manfred Bauer from Munich.

Story continues below…

Taking off the leather trousers

And though other Germans like to mock Bavaria as a nest of country bumpkins, the region is actually a prosperous industrial powerhouse and Germany’s high-tech hub.

Bavaria was first transformed from a pastoral backwater after World War II when Berlin-based titans such as Siemens and Allianz left the rubble and insecurity of the capital for a safe base in American-occupied Bavaria. Nowadays, the self-sustaining Bavarian locomotive powers on, fuelled by global players such as carmakers BMW and Audi, strong media and publishing interests, and healthy fashion and finance sectors.

Indeed, Bavaria boasts Germany’s lowest rate of unemployment, the highest salaries and its lowest debt per capita. With 12.5 million people and almost 20 percent of Germany's total land area, the state looms as large here as Texas does in the United States. But instead of Stetson-wearing cowboys, in Bavaria it’s men in spiffy leather trousers.

“Laptops and Lederhosen,” the state’s slogan for the successful combination of tradition and economic progress, still applies. Increasingly though, Bavarians are more focused on their computers.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

20:53 February 4, 2010 by Frenemy
Just like Texas, if Bavarians wanna go solo-mission, I say let them!!

(We'll see what happens the Mexicans start having their way with Texas and the French start pouring into lower Germany.....hell, who knows, we might actually let you back in if "you ask nicely"!!!)

22:53 February 4, 2010 by Cheney
Agreed. Let them go. Of course poverty always wants success to wallowwith it in misery. Call it envy. Call it revenge. Who cares, let them say Independent.
10:50 February 5, 2010 by michael4096
The splitting up of big states under the umbrella of the EU was foreseen years ago and isn't necessarily a bad thing. Germany, as one of the last states to unite is obviously in the front line - it never really did have much to unite it beyond language and history hasn't knit the state too tightly yet.

The article mentions Catalonia and Scotland but Italy is another fragile union.

In 20 years, we could easily see an EU with 40 states without any enlargement.
12:29 February 5, 2010 by design
Bavaria Sucks..It is full of Rednecks and inbreds.

Munich Blows it is mad overpriced and the mullet is still fashionable there. I am american and dont go down south for a reason, why would I want to go there in another country.

Anyone with half a brain from Bavaria gets out and goes to a real city or country
15:57 February 5, 2010 by mid503
Idiotic comments such as those by 'design' (which reveals more about him than about Bavaria) are why I generally avoid fellow Americans in Europe....
16:54 February 5, 2010 by ironclad
They propose becoming independent, an extraordinary effort in the least, but to remain in the EU; that¦#39;s like cutting off your nose to spite your face.
19:02 February 5, 2010 by michael4096
@design - I once heard the same sentiment from a bostonian about houston - and, that's about as far as any comparison between bavaria and texas goes - drunken ramblings from people that equate the town boundary and the edge of the world

@ironclad - becoming independent is the easiest thing to do - ask any teen, its easy to walk out the door. Would scotland be better today than as part of the union? or, bavaria, if it hadn't been tied to Prussia? I guess not - but, it's a nice what-if. However if today a scotland or bavaria tried to make it alone, I suspect it will fail - just like switzerland despite its oil-equivalent banking income
20:12 February 5, 2010 by Legal E
Munich is a good place. The Police always take the side of German and not the Auslander (righ or wrong, nah your in Bavaria now). The speed around the motor way at 160kph in a 120 zone (seen that today as I was bimbling along at 120. The hide Radar Traps behend cars, bushes etc to increase the revenue.

Apart from that, its not too bad as its only 1 hour to my beloved Austrian Alps so I put up with the harsh things to savour the low hanging fruits.
03:54 February 6, 2010 by CalBill
Sorry about "Design" -- he's obviously "Gay From the U.S.A.". I've been to Bavaria a couple of times and loved it. Beer, brats, and music -- what's not to like? Oh, excuse me, we could all go to Berlin and get depressed watching French movies about bad relationships and going to art galleries featuring dog feces on stretched canvas. Party on!!
10:19 February 6, 2010 by kid_a
I am wondering if the Bavarians still wanted to be independend if they were after the war not American but Russian occupied.

p.s. I love "getting depressed" in Berlin.. Don't really get your point..
00:50 February 7, 2010 by mike short
Bavaria, keep up the good work. Germany needs your tax money. Mike
15:02 February 7, 2010 by pkbw
I am an American, and as far as I am concerned, Bayern is the place to be!
18:10 February 8, 2010 by wenddiver
Texas has a lot of Germans, makes computers, is very conservative and sends a lot of tax money north to their Emo chlldren's Federal Government, so they can solve problems like global warming, appologizing to the French, talking to the EU, working on gay marriage, etc, etc.etc, and lots of other things they don't care about.

Not surprisingly Germans who pay taxes don't feel quite as good about their Federal Union as the sections of the country who primarily collect taxes.

I suspect if Barvaria did try to leave they would get the same reaction as Texas did in 1861 (see US Civil War), from their tax collecting cousins to the North. "It's about Freedom, dam'it not just paying our bills."

Barvaria is wounderful, art flms and poop on canvas are ignorant.
00:12 February 9, 2010 by Geoff DeVere
I think idependence for Bavaria is a horrible idea. Bavaria is part of Germany and always will be.

Geoffrey "Ragnar" DeVere

2720 NW Pettygrove St.

Portland, OR 97210 U.S.A.

3163 S. Pacific St.

Tolovana Park, Or 97145 U.S.A.
20:56 February 9, 2010 by Johann USA
As an American of German decent, who recently visited Bavaria, I say Bavaria is Wunderbar. The heritage, traditions, culture, and the beer of course, are all wonderful. The Bavarian Countryside and alps are magnificent and Munich is a very beautiful and cosmopolitan city. So I say hang on to your heritage, it is priceless. Keep the Lederhosen and dirndl's, the oompah bands, and the Oktoberfest. You 're heritage and culture must persevere. And in all honesty , though you will need to keep out the immigrants. This is not meant to be cruel or hurtful, but it is the truth. Assimilation will not be realized, reparation is the only way. Look at France, Britain, and Germany itself. Euopean culture must survive.
21:12 February 10, 2010 by lordwilliams629
johann with all do respect,"forget about it" european culture is dying, like in our country (USA)it's being given away to third world immigrants who hate western and american culture.
11:02 February 12, 2010 by ErickDDiaz
Go ahead be independent will send you G.W.B as your first Bayern President..And, take the Terminator back also it all the same...
21:38 January 1, 2011 by Bruno53
Bavaria feeling different from the rest of Germany? Nothing new. King Mad Ludwig never liked Chancellor Bismarck [and neither Herr Chancellor Bismarck liked Mad Ludwig] and his Prussians. And the reason Hitler became "famous", or "unfamous" if you wish, was that in the first meeting he went in 1919 of that "Workers Narionalist Party", somebody stood up and proposed Bavaria be unified to Austria after breaking away from the rest of Woimar, or Kaiser, Germany. That was one thing mad Adolf would not let it pass. Nothing new.

P.S.: The party I mentioned became the Nazi Party under Hitler.
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