A Referendum on Europe: It’s Time to Ask the People What They Think
The Germany democratic system has suffered as a result of the euro crisis, but it has also made fighting the crisis harder. Now it’s time to hold a referendum on European integration. Only then will Berlin have the democratic legitimacy it needs to take effective action.
After World War II, the West gave Germany two great gifts. The first gift was democracy; the second gift was being integrated into a Europe of free nations. This also included the overriding vision that one day both gifts could be combined to create a democratic United States of Europe. But there was a lack of determination and strength to accomplish this. To make matters worse, both gifts have suffered from the attempt to use a common currency to integrate Europe. Postwar German democracy has never been in such a sorry state as today. It has been a long time since the peoples of Europe eyed each other with so much mistrust.
That is the current situation. Next week, Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court will issue another ruling on Germany’s euro policy. This is not expected to clear the air or fundamentally improve the situation. A court decision cannot accomplish that. But something must happen. We cannot allow both democracy and Europe to go to rack and ruin. Democracy and European integration form the foundations of our country. The problem is that they have come into contradiction with each other. Assuming the debt mania doesn’t continue to spiral out of control, it’s a fact that democracy impedes a rapid rescue for the euro, while a rapid rescue for the euro undermines democracy.
Such a contradiction begs a decision. What is more important to the Germans: their democracy or Europe? Or is there a way to reconcile the two, democracy and Europe? It isn’t easy. It cannot be done without risks. But there is a way.