Merkel, Bundestag defend parliament after Monti remarks

'Checks on European policy beyond debate' says Westerwelle

Merkel, Bundestag defend parliament after Monti remarks

(ANSA) - Berlin, August 6 - German Chancellor Angela Merkel moved to defend the Bundestag on Monday after Italian Premier Mario Monti said leaders should not let themselves be tied down by their legislatures in European Union negotiations. "The chancellor's opinion is that we in Germany have always done well with the right balance between parliamentary support and the participation of parliament," Georg Streiter, one of Merkel's spokespersons, was quoted as saying by the DPA agency. In an interview published on Sunday by German weekly Der Spiegel, Monti said that "if governments let themselves be bound completely by the decisions of their parliaments without maintaining their own scope for negotiation, Europe is more likely to break up than it is to see closer integration". The comments were criticised by all sides of the political spectrum in Germany. "Parliamentary checks on European policy are beyond any debate," said Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, the chairman of the Free Democratic Party which is allied in government with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU). "We need to strengthen, not weaken, democratic legitimization in Europe". Joachim Poss of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) echoed those sentiments. "Acceptance of the euro and saving it is reinforced by national parliaments, not weakened by it," Poss said. The president of Germany's Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, later added his voice to the chorus of criticism. "The opposite is true," said the parliamentary speaker and member of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), adding that not only is parliamentary support for European policy agreements a requirement of all national constitutions but also a precondition for obtaining popular consensus. "In any event it is more acceptable for our juridical structures and democracy to disappoint the expectations of the markets than the other way round," said Lammert. In his interview, Monti was calling for greater flexibility from Merkel over how the European Union tackles the eurozone crisis and suggested there could be a backlash if this does not occur. The German government and the Bundesbank have blocked several possible measures to ease the crisis, such as the issuance of eurobonds to share the debt burden and the idea of giving the soon-to-be-launched ESM rescue fund a banking licence. Merkel has repeatedly argued that the only way to restore confidence in the under-fire single currency in the long term is for eurozone countries to show budget discipline and concede sovereignty to achieve greater fiscal integration. Monti underscored that "more flexibility" had to be given to eurozone countries that are trying to put their economic houses in order for Italy's current policy of rigour and tough economic reforms to "have a future". He added that he had told Merkel he was very worried about "the growing resentment in the Italian parliament against Europe, against the euro and against the Germans". Last week Monti said next year's general elections in Italy could produce a Euro-skeptic government if the country's borrowing costs remained as high as they are at the moment. Monti pointed out that Paris and Berlin are not without fault for the current crisis as France and Germany were the first countries to break the EU's Stability and Growth Pact in 2003. He also stressed that so far Italy had not had any aid from Germany or the EU. On the contrary, he said, the crisis has pushed Italy's borrowing costs up and in doing so helped lower the interest rates on German bonds. He concluded that Italy wanted the "moral support, not financial" of its EU partners.

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