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Germany

Euro crisis increases lawmakers' workload

Ansgar Heveling is an old hand at politics, but he's only been a member of the German parliament for three years. The lawmaker has a mounting load of responsibilities - due largely to the euro crisis.

Ansgar Heveling, 40, could never cope with his work load without the help of his office team.

The Berlin parliamentarian's personal assistant, Eva Keldenich, handles as much as possible digitally to avoid "endless mounds of paper." The euro crisis is but a topic "on the fringes" of her work since it isn't Heveling's main focus, the young woman says. Nonetheless, she has already filled several folders on the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) since the beginning of the legislative period in 2009, lined up neatly on a black shelf that takes up a third of a wall in the conference room.

The lawmaker explains the division of labor at his office, conveniently located between the Brandenburg Gate and the Russian Embassy. Keldenich and her team evaluate files concerning the euro and highlight important parts for their boss; "I try to memorize as much as possible," he says.  Sometimes, the most recent information is sufficient - other times, he browses through the files for a more comprehensive look at developments, he says.

Ansgar Heveling was interested in politics at a young age. He quickly rose in the ranks of the Christian Democratic Party (CDU).

Ansgar Heveling and Eva Keldenich look through a file

Going through the files: Heveling and assistant Eva Keldenich

After several years in local politics in Korschenbroich, the lawyer moved on to nearby Düsseldorf, the capital of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia - and then on to the federal capital, Berlin. 

A big challenge

There was little time for the newcomer in 2009 to set up his office and find employees. And from day one, Heveling was confronted with the European debt crisis, forced to decide on billions of euros in securities for Greece and other EU member states.

That was and still is a "big challenge," Heveling told Deutsche Welle - above all because he, an "average parliamentarian," has little to do with the subject matter at hand. The situation is different for representatives involved with budgetary and financial issues who are well-acqainted with the topic, he says.

In addition to his office team organizing the flood of information, the lawmaker relies on parliamentary working groups that summarize the issues at hand.

Slow down, please

Ahead of important decisions in the Bundestag, for instance on the ESM and the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) bailout fund, deputies usually receive pertinent information on very short notice. That is understandable, Heveling says, as the process involves "coordinated action with other states." Rapid action in parliament is a matter of course once EU summits have reached a decision, he says.  

Concerning the ESM, the young parliamentarian admits he often can't judge whether the right course is being taken - he leaves that to the experts. In general, though, Heveling would welcome his workday to proceed a tick slower.

Crowded schedule

That might give Heveling, who is an expert on criminal law, the chance to focus on his own topics.  By mid-2013, Heveling and his fellow deputies are scheduled to decide on new legislation regarding preventive custody of criminals.

blue euro umbrella

The ESM is supposed to protect the eurozone from disaster

But the fact is, the euro crisis is at the top of the agenda in Germany's lower house of parliament, and pushes other topics into the background.

The crucial point in the euro debate is the dichotomy between the responsibility on making a decision and the responsibility to formulate legislation, Heveling says. On a national level, parliamentarians can influence the outcome of a vote - but instead, in the euro debate, "the heads of state and government make that decision amongst themselves," Heveling said.

This reduces to the young lawmaker making "thumbs up or down" decisions, which he says gives people the impression that "parliamentarians really don't have much of an influence on the decision any more." 

After weeks of touring his precinct over the summer break, Ansgar Heveling has since returned to hectic Berlin. On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court announces its ruling on the ESM. No matter the outcome, the issue will keep Ansgar Heveling busy through the end of his legislative period in 2013 - and beyond, should the conservative politician be re-elected. Regardless, the European debt crisis is bound to be on the agenda for quite a while to come.

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