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Germany

Edmund Stoiber: "Germany is in a Bad State"

In an interview with DW-TV, the premier of Bavaria and head of the Christian Social Union said that while Germany orients itself more towards Brussels and the EU, it cannot afford to overlook its own reform plans.

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The face of German conservative opposition

As head of the CSU and leader of one of Germany's biggest states, Edmund Stoiber said that while Germany looks more and more towards the European Union, the country had "fallen behind in the key areas of the economy, science and research."

"Germany is in a very bad state," he told Deutsche Welle television Saturday. "That has to do with the overall framework in Germany -- where the present head of government has set the wrong priorities."

Stoiber, who lost against Chancellor Gerhard Schröder in the 2002 general elections, said he has "always been of the opinion that reviving Germany's fortunes cannot be achieved through European institutions, but from within."

At the same time, he argued that the German people need to be more involved in the fundamental changes of direction in the European Union. They should be given a chance to vote in a referendum on issues that affect them in Germany, on topics such as extending EU membership to Turkey or the European Constitution.

Give the people a say

"I believe the people should be given a chance to vote on these things, because that makes people think much more intensively about the whole European question," he said.

If that were to occur, he added, "politicians would then have to persuade the people directly, and not just the parliament. I think this would create a much livelier dialogue about Europe."

Referring to recent European elections, Stoiber said, "We always complain that people don't go to vote, that they don't appreciate the importance of Europe, and that they don't think the European elections are very important. We could improve all of these things if the people were allowed to have a say in the most fundamental decisions regarding Europe."

Membership for Turkey

On Oct. 6 the European Commission will present a report addressing whether or not formal accession talks should begin with Turkey. Stoiber has been a strong opponent of extending the current 25-member bloc to include the predominately Muslim country on the fringe of the European continent.

"I am convinced that Europe is not in a position to absorb a country as large as Turkey, with its specific attributes, its economic problems and its cultural background -- which is of course different from Europe's cultural background," he said.

However, the "problem isn't Turkey," Stoiber maintained. "It's ultimately a problem within the European Union. If what we want in Europe is political union, then we are not in a position to admit a country which, in my opinion, cannot be fully included in the European integration."

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