Half Germans support giving more powers to Brussels-poll

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 07, 2012 10:09 AM
Half Germans support giving more powers to Brussels-poll

By Sarah Marsh and Gernot Heller

BERLIN (Reuters) - Around half of Germans are prepared to give up some national powers to Brussels in the pursuit of a common European Union financial policy, according to a poll by Emnid for the German magazine Focus.

Some 49 percent of the 1,000 Germans surveyed for the poll supported handing over more power to the EU, in line with the closer European fiscal and political union championed by Chancellor Angela Merkel. Some 44 percent were opposed.

Voters for the opposition Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Left party were particularly willing to give up some national competences, according to the poll, while voters for the parties in the ruling coalition were more reluctant.

In particular, some 63 percent of supporters of the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), junior coalition partners in Merkel's coalition, were against giving up any more power to Brussels, according to the poll conducted between July 4 and 5.

This underlines the difficulties Merkel faces in getting her plans for closer political union agreed in Berlin, where patience within her own fractious coalition with measures to stem the euro zone crisis is wearing thin.

Merkel has proposed much tighter fiscal and political ties between EU member states as an essential precondition for any mutualisation of debt - a key demand of struggling southern countries such as Italy.


Many voters in Germany, Europe's paymaster and its biggest economy, are fed up with shelling out billions of euros to prevent countries like Greece defaulting on their debts.

Some senior politicians, including Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, have said a referendum would be needed to give legitimacy to further political and fiscal union in Europe. This would be the first referendum in Germany since World War Two.

The alternative to debt mutualisation in order to overcome the crisis however is "a horror scenario", according to Germany's panel of economic advisers.

The so-called wise men on Friday published their latest report on how they believe Berlin should deal with the crisis, noting that while mutualisation of debt was risky, any other scenario was just as fraught.

The advisers noted that Germany had claims within the euro zone running up to 2.8 trillion euros, meaning a breakup of the common currency bloc would involve high risks for its largest economy, with many creditors unlikely be able to pay back their loans in full.

A euro zone breakup would probably result in a shock of the same scale as occurred after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, which led to a 5 percent contraction in the German economy.

In the long run, a re-introduction of a stronger Deutschemark would damage Germany's competitiveness on European and global markets, the wise men wrote in their report.

"It should not be overseen that German companies have benefited considerably in the past few year from the fact that they were producing in a currency bloc, whose currency was not seen as a typical 'strong currency' by markets," they added.

The wise men, whose advice the government does not have to follow, reiterated their call for a debt redemption fund.

(Editing by David Holmes)