Case 1: Marginalising EU Critics in the Mainstream Parties

In 2005, CSU MPs put forward a relatively pronounced EU criticism. In part this can be attributed to the fact that the party was in the opposition at the time. This enabled the party and its leaders and MPs to be less strict about showing support for EU integration.

Already in January 2005, when the MPs of the CSU Bundestag group held their famous annual reunion in Wildbad Kreuth in the Bavarian Alps, several MPs criticised the draft Constitutional Treaty and announced that they would only vote in favour of ratification in the Bundestag if some conditions were met in the ratification law, as for example more powers for the Bundestag in EU matters. As an immediate reaction to this criticism, both CSU Chair Edmund Stoiber and president of the Christian Social Bundestag Group Michael Glos publicly neglected the criticism, sending the signal that it was not to be taken seriously. At this point no debate on the Constitutional Treaty had yet taken place within the CSU Bundestag group, and it was not clear how many MPs actually would vote against the Treaty, but still, both politicians emphasised there would be a positive vote in the group:

CSU-Vorsitzender Edmund Stoiber rechnet mit einer breiten Mehrheit in der CSU-Landesgruppe fur die neue EU-Verfassung. Es wurden letztlich “nur sehr wenige” CSU-Abgeordnete im Bundestag mit Nein stimmen [...]

Auch CSU-Landesgruppenchef Michael Glos rechnet mit einer einheitlichen Haltung der CSU-Parlamentarier. Dies konne er allerdings “nicht fur 100 Prozent garantieren”, schrankte Glos ein. (SZ 070105)

[CSU chairman Edmund Stoiber calculates on obtaining a broad majority for the Constitutional Treaty in the CSU Bundestag group. In the end only “very few” MPs would vote No, Stoiber said ... CSU Bundestag group Chair Michael Glos is counting on a united position by the CSU MPs, even if he “cannot guarantee 100 % approval”, he then qualified.]

Despite such comments that downplayed the importance of inner-party EU criticism, both Stoiber and Glos in the coming months adopted the claims that had been put forward by the EU-critical CSU MPs. They negotiated with the German red-green government until shortly before the Bundestag ratification vote. The government finally accepted some of the claims—but it did not publicly comment on them.

Despite the compromises the government had thus made, most of the CSU EU critics announced they still wanted to vote No. In reaction, the chairs of the CDU and CSU Bundestag group tried by several rhetorical and political means to persuade them to join the Yes camp.

As a first step, the chairs tried to change the opinions of potentially dissenting MPs by argument and by threat. In the group meeting that preceded the Bundestag vote, a trial vote was held, with both Edmund Stoiber (CSU chair) and Angela Merkel (CDU chair) speaking, making a plea in favour of a united Europe and the Constitutional Treaty:

Auch die Kirche sehe die Verfassung als Fortschritt an, erklarte Stoiber den EU-Skeptikern aus den eigenen Reihen—von denen manche den fehlen- den Gottesbezug in der Verfassung beklagen. Im wahrsten Wortsinn sollten die Kritiker nun, soll Stoiber gemahnt haben, nicht papstlicher sein als der Papst ... Mit Pathos rief Bayerns Ministerprasident in Erinnerung, wie das kriegerische Europa von einst zu einer Friedensgemeinschaft zusam- mengewachsen sei. CDU-Chefin Merkel erklarte, warum die Verfassung ein grofier Fortschritt sei. Ihr Vortrag sei imponierend gewesen, raumen selbst EU-Skeptiker ein. (SZ 120505_3)

[Even the Catholic Church was regarding the Constitution as a progress, Stoiber explained to the EU sceptics in his own ranks—some of them had been complaining a reference to God was missing in the Treaty. Stoiber, as was reported, added that the critics should not be more papal than the pope himself [...] Using a lot of pathos, the Bavarian Minister-President recalled how an old warring Europe grew together into a new community of peace.

CDU chair Merkel explained why the Constitution was a big step ahead. Her presentation was impressive, even EU sceptics said.]

In addition, the critics’ arguments were taken up by CSU party and group leaders. They explained the Constitutional Treaty, stressed the compromises that had been made, and the CSU claims that had been accepted, going so far as to sign an official declaration:

Bei der CSU hat die Fuhrung der Landesgruppe EU-Skeptikern eine Brucke gebaut. In einer Erklarung, die auch Landesgruppenchef Michael Glos unterzeichnet hat, drucken die Skeptiker ihr Unbehagen aus—um dann doch “trotz der schwerwiegenden Bedenken” zuzustimmen. Als wichtig- stes Argument fur die Zustimmung gelten die zusatzlichen Rechte, die dem Bundestag im Gesetzgebungsverfahren eingeraumt werden. (SZ 120505_3)

[In the CSU the leaders of the Bundestag group have been building bridges for the EU sceptics. In a declaration that was also signed by group chair Michael Glos, the critics express their discomfort—adding that they nevertheless will, despite their criticism, approve of the Treaty. The main argument for approval consists in the additional rights given to the Bundestag in legislative procedures.]

In addition to this strategy of compromises and explanation, threats were expressed:

So berichten Abgeordnete, dass ihnen von einflussreichen Kollegen jene Folterinstrumente gezeigt wurden, die in der Demokratie zum Zwecke der Mehrheitsbeschaffung entwickelt wurden—etwa die Drohung mit dem Karriereknick. (SZ 120505_3)

[MPs report that influential colleagues have been brandishing the kinds of instruments of torture developed in democracies that serve at creating majorities—for instance, the threat that one’s career might eventually suffer.]

When it became apparent that despite all those efforts a minority in the CSU group would vote No after all, this fact was downplayed, as in the following quote by Angela Merkel:

“Die grofie Mehrheit wird zustimmen, und das ist auch gut so.“... Sie werde ihrer Fraktion ein Ja zur EU-Verfassung empfehlen. Dass diese dann geschlossen fur die Ratifizierung stimmt, erwarte sie jedoch nicht. Es sei seit langem bekannt, dass es Gegenstimmen geben werde. (taz 100505_3)

[“A vast majority will approve [of the Treaty], and this is good news” ...

She said she would recommend a Yes vote to her group [the CDU group], but did not expect a unanimous vote. It was known for a long time, she said, that there would be some votes against.]

This strategy of downplaying the impact of the EU critics within the group was combined with new offers to the potentially dissenting MPs, as becomes apparent in the following quote by the first executive secretary of the CDU group, Norbert Rottgen:

[Er] sagte, wenn am Ende beispielsweise ein Abgeordneter erklare, er konne dem Verfassungsvertrag wegen des fehlenden Gottesbezugs nicht zustim- men, werde ihm niemand mit einem Fraktionszwang drohen. Rottgen argumentierte uberdies, es werde schon deswegen keine “Gruppe” von Zustimmungsverweigerern bei der Verfassungs ratifizierung geben, weil die Begrundungen fur das Nein sehr heterogen seien. (FAZ 110505)

[He said that if in the end one MP declared he or she could not vote Yes because God was not mentioned in the Treaty, nobody would threaten him or her with the whip. But there was no unified group of opponents, as the reasons behind the potential No vote were so divergent.]

The 2005 government parties, the Social Democrats and the Greens, also included some critics of the Constitutional Treaty, but there were much less of them than in the ranks of CSU. Still, the group leaders of the Greens and the SPD tried to discipline these critics. In the SPD, the reaction was to downplay the matter:

In der SPD haben zwei Abgeordnete angemeldet, sich bei der Abstimmung enthalten zu wollen. Der parlamentarische Geschaftsfuhrer der SPD- Fraktion, Wilhelm Schmidt, kundigte allerdings an, man wolle mit den beiden noch einmal sprechen. (SZ 120505_3)

[Two SPD MPs have announced they would abstain from the vote. The executive secretary of the SPD group, Wilhelm Schmidt, however announced he would talk to both of them once again.]

In contrast, there was an intense debate in the Green group. The only Treaty critic, Hans-Christian Strobele, came under harsh criticism:

Bei den Grunen meldete in der Fraktionssitzung nur Hans-Christian Strobele Bedenken an—was ihm immerhin einen gut 20-minutigen Meinungsaustausch mit Aufienminister Joschka Fischer bescherte ... Sollte

Strobele seine Zustimmung verweigern, so Fischer, musse er sich auch daruber bewusst sein, dass er sich mit den Europa-Skeptikern unter den britischen Konservativen und auch den franzosischen Rechtsextremen gemein mache. Mit dem Hinweis auf Letztere griff Fischer Zwischenrufe der Parteivorsitzenden Claudia Roth auf, die wiederholt den Namen Le Pen in den Raum warf ... In Grunen-Kreisen wird erwartet, dass Strobele der Verfassung nun zustimmt. (SZ 120505_3)

[In the Green group meeting, only Hans-Christian Strobele expressed his concern—which resulted in a 20 minute exchange with Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer ... Should Strobele not approve, Fischer said, he needed to be aware that he was joining forces with Eurosceptics like the British Conservatives and the French extreme right. In referring to the latter, Fischer was reacting to interjections of Green Chair Claudia Roth, who repeatedly mentioned the name Le Pen . Green insiders expect that Strobele will now approve of the Constitutional Treaty.]

 
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