Left leader calls for German referendum on EU deals

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Left leader calls for German referendum on EU deals
Left Party leader Sahra Wagenknecht. Photo: DPA.

The left-wing leader of the official opposition party in Germany said that it’s time the German people also have a say on what goes on in Brussels.


Left Party (Linke) leader Sahra Wagenknecht said on Tuesday that she wants Germany to hold it’s own kind of EU referendum, specifically on trade deals like the controversial proposed TTIP free trade agreement between Europe and the United States.

“I believe that it’s right to give the people the chance to vote on important issues like the planned free trade TTIP deal, or other European agreements,” Wagenknecht told newspaper Die Welt.

“We want to change Europe so that it doesn’t fall apart further. Therefore new deals should be agreed upon in every country.”

A small catch to this, though, is that it's debatable whether the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz) would allow for the launch of such a countrywide referendum.

The only kinds of federal referenda that the Grundgesetz explicitly mentions are on changes to territory, like fusing together several states.

Not including other forms of referenda in the Grundgesetz is due to the country’s weariness of its Nazi past, when referenda were used to create constitutional change to the ultimate detriment of democracy.

Wagenknecht also said that those who voice criticism of the EU are not all nationalists or against European cooperation.

“As long as people see their pensions sinking and jobs becoming more precarious because of interference from Brussels, one should not be surprised that opposition is growing,” she said.

“People should of course be able to decide for themselves what kind of Europe they want to live in. Instead of being afraid of referenda, the EU should change its policies so that people can again connect their hopes to a common Europe.”

On the other end of the political spectrum, the leader of the far-right populist AfD (Alternative for Germany) party said in reaction to the Brexit vote that “the time is ripe for a new Europe”.

AfD member of the European Parliament Beatrix von Storch also greatly praised the Brexit vote and demanded that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Parliament President Martin Schulz “resign because their project has failed”.

Meanwhile Chancellor Angela Merkel has been in talks with other European leaders about the impact of the UK leaving, urging more cooperation among the remaining members.

Note: This article has been clarified to explain that it is debatable whether the Basic Law allows for certain federal referenda.



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