Bavaria leader's anti-European stance 'treason'

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The Independent Online
EDMUND STOIBER, the Bavarian Prime Minister, has come increasingly under attack for comments he made in a newspaper interview last week, where he explicitly renounced the idea of a federal Europe, the cornerstone of Germany's foreign policy. One politician has talked of Mr Stoiber's 'high treason'.

Mr Stoiber is the deputy leader of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of the Christian Democrats, led by Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Mr Kohl's vision is, above all, of a united Europe. But Mr Stoiber, in the words of the weekly Die Zeit, is now appearing in the role of 'Edmund Thatcher'.

The force of his attack - clearly at odds with the direction of German foreign policy, ever since the Second World War - is especially damaging, given the timing of his interview with the Suddeutsche Zeitung, immediately after the Maastricht treaty came into effect last week.

When Heiner Geissler, the deputy leader of the Christian Democrats' parliamentary group, accused Mr Stoiber of 'high treason', Mr Stoiber responded with equal vigour, talking of 'verbal terrorism'. Theo Waigel, the German Finance Minister and leader of the CSU, has tried to make conciliatory noises, by saying: 'We need Europe for the joint solution of joint tasks . . . That was, and remains the European policy of the CSU.'

Theoretically, Mr Stoiber remains in favour of European solutions - but he wants Bavaria's strength to be much increased. He seems sceptical not just of the centralising power of Brussels, but also of centralism within Germany - where there is already much more devolution of power than elsewhere in continental Europe, let alone in the UK.

Der Spiegel magazine argued this week that Mr Kohl's European policies are already under assault, even without Mr Stoiber. In an article headlined 'The last European', Der Spiegel pointed out: 'Until now, it was only the small, radical parties that attacked Kohl's EC as an undemocratic bureaucrat's fortress. Now, though, the attacks are coming from within the Union (ie, the Christian Democrats and CSU).'

Die Zeit suggests Mr Stoiber may be seeking to score some electoral points, by portraying himself as Bavaria's saviour from 'the European monster'.

Meanwhile, as Germany stumbles towards an election-packed year in 1994 - with regional, federal, European and presidential elections - Mr Kohl is still facing problems not just with Mr Stoiber's European rebellion but also because of Steffen Heitmann, the controversial presidential candidate whom the Chancellor still appears determined to force through.

The Chancellor's office has denied reports that Mr Kohl is ready to drop Mr Heitmann in favour of Roman Herzog, a senior judge and possible compromise candidate of the Free Democrats, junior coalition partners in the government.