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Germany

Constitution Faces Easy Ratification in Germany

Though the new European Union constitution faces a bloodbath battle in a handful of European countries, here in Germany, it is expected to easily sail through parliament, where it will be given its final blessing.

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Schröder can safely assume parliament will approve the charter

Media commentators in Germany have been looking askance at the new EU charter. They doubt that the document will find all-out support among the populations in other EU countries. But senior politicians across the board have welcomed the agreement. German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder described the new constitution as a tough bargain to sell, but only as far as convincing his fellow EU leaders was concerned.

"This is a historic decision," Schröder said, "which wasn’t easy to reach. We have overcome a major obstacle on the path of a truly united Europe by making the European Union more viable."

'A good day for Europe'

Schröder’s view has been echoed by virtually all German politicians, not only from the ruling Social Democrats, but also the opposition conservatives and liberal Free Democrats. Even Schröder’s fiercest domestic rival, Christian Democratic Union leader Angela Merkel, praised the compromise reached in Brussels as an important step for the 25-nation bloc.

CDU Parteitag in Hannover, Angela Merkel freut sich

Christian Democratic party (CDU) chairwoman Angela Merkel

"This was a good day for Europe," Merkel said. "Now the European Union has completed its founding charter as a basis on which a fully united union can develop."

Merkel and the conservative party she leads had previously criticized the chancellor for allegedly seeking to split the European Union by pushing his strategy of a core Europe together with the French president Jacques Chirac. The leaders of Germany’s Christian Social Union, the CDU's Bavarian sister party, also accused Schröder of "selling out" Germany's interests to Brussels.

But this weekend, the party's leader said he was content with the final draft. "The deal is much better than what we have at the moment, said Edmund Stoiber, premier of the state of Bavaria. "Most importantly, it prevents attempts by Brussels to dominate national politics."

No God, no good

The biggest criticism over the weekend came from German Catholic clerics and politicians with strong religious affiliations. They complained that the new constitution does not mention the bloc’s Christian heritage as an underlying principle for the union.

"Like many others in Germany, I very much regret that," said Erwin Teufel, the conservative premier in the state of Baden-Württemberg. "It’s a shame that the German chancellor prevented an initiative by more than a dozen EU member states who also wanted to see Christianity mentioned in the text."

The liberal Free Democrats (FDP) also welcomed the new constitution. However, the party's leaders criticized the fact that, unlike the people of Britain or Denmark, the German population won’t have the chance to approve the document in a referendum. Last week, an overwhelming majority of lawmakers in the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, voted down a resolution by the FDP for a plebiscite. Most expect the new EU charter to sail through parliament without any major disputes.

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